I will make what I want to say to you brief, as there is not much time. Lama Yeshe said to try to generate great will in order to obtain happiness for yourself and others, but I don’t know how to speak on that as I am lazy and don’t have any will myself to accomplish happiness for self and others. So, I hope to speak a little about kindness.
One very helpful method for generating will is to remember the kindness of sentient beings deeply, from the heart. This will help your will to practice Dharma and to work for happiness, especially the happiness of others.
It is very important to remember the kindness of the guru. By remembering this again and again, wrong thoughts do not arise so much and even stop. The more we think about kindness and feel it from the heart, the more we develop perseverance and a strong will to bear hardships, follow the orders, and accomplish the advice of the guru. On the basis of what is explained in the lamrim and outlined in these teachings and our own experiences of the guru’s kindness and goodness, we are more able to keep our mind calm and clear and less like dirty water. Then devotion arises. Once we have devotion, our mind is prepared for realizations to come, at least the guru’s kindness blessing our mind and sudden strong thoughts of death and impermanence, compassion, and loving kindness. The feelings of loving kindness and unbearable compassion become so powerful that the strong wish develops to be reborn in the narak immediately, for the sake of others. One feels this unbearably and sincerely, from the heart. Also, unexpectedly, some realization of shunyata arises. It is a surprise, but by developing devotion, we create the conditions for it to happen.
Remember how we were before we met Lama Yeshe. We were no different from wild animals—tigers, leopards, etc. living in the forests—except that our body was called a human body. I see the last life in that way—no joking! Before we met our guru, we were like an animal, only thinking of our own needs, of having enough to drink and eat, to be able to sleep, etc.
Now we can check the difference after having met Lama Yeshe; we can check how much progress has happened in our lives and minds. However much Dharma understanding we have now, that is how much freedom we have to practice. We have the opportunity to practice; from our side, there is that much freedom. It is important to compare the past with the present in this way.
Also remember how, after we met Lama Yeshe, our mind was inspired, and we generated some thought of renunciation and took ordination. Think how, since we took five, eight, 36 or 253 precepts, the merit created by us, every hour of our lives, has been increased. All this is made possible by the kindness of Lama Yeshe. Even if you were not ordained by Lama himself, the causes of your ordination, the thought of renunciation, were generated by his kindness. Think of the infinite amount of merit we have generated by keeping the bodhisattva precepts as well as the vows of secret mantra—again, all made possible by the kindness of Lama Yeshe.
Even the Dharma understanding we have received from other teachers was made possible by Lama Yeshe’s kindness in creating the conditions and making the centers, in creating the place and inviting the teachers, in organizing all this. So even though we may have extensive understanding of a subject—tantra or sutra, Madhyamaka, Abhisamayalankara, or whatever—even though we may have received fantastic teachings from another lama, the kindness of Lama Yeshe is at the root. For instance, during this time of the Dharma Celebrations we have received incredible teachings!
We should think about our actions in everyday life and, even though we have been born human beings, how difficult it is to make our actions virtuous as in the Bodhicaryavatara or to make them the cause for enlightenment. It is hard to work out how we have created the cause to receive such fortune; such profound teachings of secret mantra that give enlightenment in one brief lifetime, particularly Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra teachings, such as Guhyasamaja body mandala and Heruka body mandala teachings. If we think of the life we lead and our everyday conduct, it is absolutely surprising that we have received the causes to have all these teachings. And even if we can’t become enlightened in this life or can’t generate realizations of dzog rim or kye rim teachings or can’t practice what we have heard, just by receiving these teachings an incredible impression has been left on our minds.
We have heard the story from many lamas about Nagarjuna’s disciples who were two pigeons in their past lives and who heard Nagarjuna reciting while they sat on the roof of his cave. Even though they did not understand the meaning, they were reborn as great pandits in their next life, making many commentaries on the teachings they had heard. This and many other stories like it show that, even if we cannot practice what we have heard, it makes an incredible impression on our minds. Just by having heard, you can live the rest of your life with great happiness. And think of the prosperity of your next life, all due to these impressions. So even if we cannot practice now, we can figure out that our next life will be better than this one, and we will be able to practice lamrim and tantra, and generate realizations. I think this is the way the guru guides us to enlightenment, from life to life.
It is due to seeds that were planted in our previous lives that we now have contact with Lama Yeshe. We received teachings in past lives and were guided in many different ways by him. But that also depended on previous contact. So gradually, by planting seeds, impressions on our minds, by the kindness of the guru, under the guidance of the guru, our lives become better and better. If there was no contact with Lama Yeshe in the past life, there would be no reason to have contact now.
Maybe I will tell you the story of how I met Lama Yeshe, if it doesn’t take too much time. It’s a very funny story. After my two alphabet teachers, I was taught by the abbot who granted me getsul ordination. He passed away at the same time as the Chinese invaded Tibet. Following him, I was taught by Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, whose kindness is responsible for whatever interest in meditation practice I now have. Whilst I was at Buxa, Geshe Rabten taught on shunyata and shamatha meditation, and even though I was very small, I was interested. I tried to do shamatha meditation on my bed after the mosquito net was put on it. I used to meditate on the silver cover of my Tibetan tea bowl, even though I didn’t know how. When they brought me from Tibet to India, I tried to meditate one-pointedly. I fell down. I don’t know what happened; my whole body fell completely. This happened several times, and eventually I gave up. Anyway, in that house there might have been a small impression from a past life. So that is how I have some interest in lamrim, more than in meditation practice.
Originally by the kindness of Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, I recognized my root guru. After that Geshe Rabten was very busy, and he sent me to another teacher from Kham whose name was also Yeshe. From this teacher I received the meditation and visualization on Ganden Lha Gyäma, and the teachings on the kindness of mother sentient beings from the part of the Prajnaparamita scriptures dealing with that subject. There was no text, so my teacher Yeshe had to say it by heart. I hadn’t learned Tibetan writing in Tibet, just studied it myself so that I could read; so I copied everything down. It wasn’t until I was in India that I studied handwriting from one of the governors who works here now in the department. Then this teacher Gen Yeshe wanted to lead a different life, so he left Buxa to wander around and stay in different places in India. Now I think this teacher Yeshe, in aspect disrobed, lives in a Sakyapa settlement near Dharamsala. I haven’t seen him for many years since he left Buxa. Anyway Gen Yeshe was very good at debating and, like Lama Yeshe, was always joking, smiling, and always happy to debate.
Then Geshe Rabten arranged for me to be taught by another geshe who is not here now, and later he had the idea for me to go and take teachings from a Tibetan monk, Geshe Thubten. I was happy to have teachings from the geshe, but somehow I was reluctant to go and receive teachings from Lama Yeshe.
There was a monk in my class who most people know as Chomphel—he was Kopan’s cook for many years and now works for Samsara Trading. He, along with Lama Pasang and other Tibetan monks, were taking teachings from Lama Yeshe. At that stage I was only receiving teachings from Geshe Rabten and then only when he wasn’t busy, as he had many disciples and had to teach many different texts to different classes. At that time Chomphel used to be the leader of my class, and he kept pushing me to go and take teachings from Lama Yeshe. My friend used to go outside for a walk, for relaxation. One day, we started to walk outside the camp, but I didn’t take anything, no offering. When we came to the mango tree where there used to be seats, I said, “I want to go back.” But he pushed, so I went a little bit further. I stopped again and again saying, “No, I don’t want to go,” but he kept pushing me. It was quite far to where Lama Yeshe lived on the mountain, about half an hour or an hour, depending how fast you walked. Even when we had reached the hut, I wanted to retreat. I had brought no offerings, which was partly my reason for wanting to go back. When you first make contact with the guru, it is very important to perform the offerings correctly. How many teachings you receive depends on that. So much depends on that, as you know from the stories of Milarepa. For this reason I didn’t receive many teachings at Buxa.
The leader of my class brought a bowl with some rice and a few rupees, together with a very poor, old offering scarf. He went in first to ask if Lama Yeshe would receive me. I think Lama Yeshe asked, “Have you received permission from Geshe Rabten?” and he replied “Yes.” I had asked Geshe Rabten to which teacher I should go for teachings, but he didn’t say which one. He was a very skillful teacher, knowing exactly what was best for the disciple. I could feel what he had in mind, and he said it didn’t matter what one learned. So then I just left.
On my first day, I sat on the same bed as Lama Yeshe because of having the name “incarnate,” something like that, and the others sat on the floor. The teaching was about cause and effect. I didn’t understand anything at all—I think it was because I went with a bad motivation. I thought, why couldn’t Lama Yeshe teach more slowly? Although the others could understand, I couldn’t. Then on the second day, I could understand a little better. I think that’s because I had been guided by Lama Yeshe in many lifetimes, just as you have. So even though I had no strong wish, there was a strong force, karma, between Lama Yeshe and myself. So you see, there had definitely been contact in past lives. He hasn’t only helped and guided me in this life, but he planted seeds in my mind in many past lifetimes. I think you can see in this clearly why all the happiness of the past, present, and future depends on the guru.
It is very effective when we say the six-session guru yoga prayer if we visualize Guru Vajradhara up above and below, however many gurus we have—fifteen, sixteen, etc. The guru is the one who does the action of Buddha. Make requests, then remember the kindness of the guru in the longer six-session guru yoga prayer. “I request to the precious guru who is the embodiment of the buddhas of the three times and ten directions doing actions in various numberless realms by manifesting in whatever aspect suits.” The meaning is this—Vajradhara manifests according to one’s own level of mind and that of sentient beings.
When we are saying the long version of the prayer, we should remember the meaning—that Vajradhara manifests according to the karma of each sentient being. If he manifested in the form of animals or lower forms, we wouldn’t be able to receive teachings. If Vajradhara manifested in nirmanakaya or sambhogakaya aspect, then we wouldn’t have the karma to see him. So he manifests exactly according to the karma we have at this moment, in human aspect, so that we can communicate with him and receive teachings.
There are uncountable numbers of buddhas—the thousand buddhas of this fortunate age; the four divisions of tantric deities, the innumerable various aspects of buddhas and bodhisattvas. Yet however many there are, we don’t have the karma to see them or to receive teachings directly from these aspects. Therefore, it is very kind that our teacher has manifested as a human being so we can communicate and receive teachings. He is kinder than all the buddhas of the three times and is admired in the supreme field of merit for doing good actions for us and other beings in countless realms. At this time remember this: the gurus we now visualize up there have, in past lives and in this present one, guided us with various means, planting impressions in our minds. Gradually by revealing different means, each guru leads us to the state of omniscient mind in life after life. When we remember the gurus guiding us in each life and we see how the happiness of the three times comes from each of them, it has a very powerful effect on the mind.
As it says in The Essential Nectar—you must have read these verses many times—even if we make offerings for eons equal to the number of words in one verse, we can’t repay the kindness of the guru. I find this very effective for the mind. If Buddha said this, how could we repay the kindness of being shown the complete, holy path to enlightenment? Even showing us one verse is so kind. One reason we can’t repay the kindness, even if we made countless offerings for eons, is, I think, because impressions are left on our minds by hearing Dharma. Even if you hear only one verse from a guru, such a strong seed is planted that it brings much progress from life to life. The seed grows into an incredible tree with huge branches covering a wide area and many places, sheltering many horse carriages and houses. If the verse is about bodhicitta, we can carry the benefit of the small impressions up to enlightenment. What we get from life to life is incredible, just from hearing one verse.
Having shown the methods by which we can be liberated from the three lower realms, the kind guru has provided us with the necessary conditions—freedoms and endowments. On the basis of this perfect human body, the guru reveals the highest, most perfect method to pacify the sufferings of samsara and to be liberated from the bondage of nirvana, and so leads us to enlightenment. How greatly kind he is! All this depends on past lifetimes, on seeds being planted in the mind, on being guided.
And by the kindness of the guru we are able to live a celibate life in a secluded place or monastery, renouncing worldly family life. If you are now living a family life, it is exactly like living in a fire—your own problems, your children’s problems, your wife’s problems. So many family problems. By comparison, how great is the peace that we have, thanks to the kindness of the guru giving ordination, and things like that.
Many of us here have taught Dharma to other people at the centers and in other places. By explaining Dharma and working at centers, we offer great benefit to sentient beings. All the merit we accumulate by teaching Dharma and building centers where sentient beings can practice Dharma and follow the path to omniscience is clearly due to Lama Yeshe’s kindness. For example, since starting the first center in Australia, how many people have been there and had seeds planted to reach omniscient mind; how many people have been saved from the lower realms?
Even just by thinking of people coming to the centers and understanding Dharma, we can feel so happy and joyful, without even thinking about the omniscient mind—just imagine them being saved from the lower realms! If they come to the center with a troubled mind and find a perfect, worthwhile, trustworthy refuge object and take refuge, they are unbetrayed and reliably guided, an incredible benefit for other sentient beings. Toward barbarians, suffering sentient beings, we should have pity. Even without complete teachings on lamrim, bodhicitta, or tantra, just receiving teachings on refuge and meeting a reliable refuge object is of unbelievable benefit. From this root branches develop, and many sentient beings receive peace.
By actualizing the centers, people have created the cause of happiness in future lives. So many have opened their eyes to the causes of happiness and the causes of suffering. In England at Manjushri, in America, in Germany, in France and in New Delhi—year after year, the centers benefit sentient beings, temporally and ultimately. You work hard at these centers and see the result and the benefit you are able to offer, you have offered, and they have received. So far what has happened is a great accomplishment. It’s unbelievably worthwhile, however much we have dedicated our life or suffered, it was worthwhile bearing these hardships.
Sometimes we find it difficult with Lama—he says to do something, and even if we do it that way, he then says to do it differently—he is so difficult to please. We work hard in the hot sun or cold, while thirsty or hungry. And for years we bear criticism from people who complain about us from the east or west and from all ten directions—not from the buddhas maybe. I am joking! On top of that, after we explained our work to Lama expecting a compliment, “Oh that’s very good, fantastic, thank you,” we get something else instead. We have a hard time, being squeezed so much. It’s difficult to do the work not knowing exactly what to do or exactly what Lama wanted. The scolding of the guru is like a wrathful mantra to purify hindrances. The conclusion is that all the hardships and criticism become incredibly worthwhile.
We should think of the advantages, of all the sentient beings who benefit and receive from what we are able to offer. So then, instead of being discouraged and our mind becoming smaller, our will becomes stronger to continuously work for others. This is very important. I don’t mean we should feel proud, “Oh I have done this and that, now I am great.” Pride doesn’t lead to enlightenment or the happiness of others. But rejoicing again and again, especially when we work for a center, is very important. That great accomplishment we have done for sentient beings is also by the kindness of Lama Yeshe. You should continue and develop—by seeing the past progress and accomplishments. It is great that even before we become enlightened or generate any lamrim realizations, we are able to offer incredible benefit to others. It’s not easy; it depends on so many things. The person who does that is a very fortunate person and should rejoice very often.
The people who come to the centers to study, all these sentient beings are one family. The difference is in body and in time—someone is a dog now, someone else is this or that, just different bodies at different times, in different relationships. We are all one family, so we are helping sentient beings within one family. Working for the centers while we are living in ordination, working so busily with lay people, I think that’s great. It takes a brave person, a hero, to live in ordination while at the same time working with people. It’s like living in a thorn or a fireplace. I think that’s very brave and something for which we should rejoice from our very hearts. In this way we become a real army against the delusions. Thanks to the kindness of Lama Yeshe. It’s something for which we should feel great happiness.
In the lamrim it says that if a lama shows he is pleased, it doesn’t mean he is really pleased, or if a lama shows he is displeased, it doesn’t mean he is displeased. Maybe his mind is actually pleased but his aspect has to show displeasure for some purpose. This is what skillful, perfect, real gurus do. When Lama gives, it’s like this, so you can’t really judge. When you think, “Oh, Lama’s manifesting like this, now I am going completely berserk,” it doesn’t mean that he is necessarily displeased.
Also when Lama Yeshe gives different jobs and work to people, I feel it is a method that fits each person. It’s a way of guiding that particular person. For example, there are different jobs—to be the leader of a group or the director of a center. Each director fits the people at that center; they have the karma to have that director. It depends on sentient beings’ karma, and they have to do according to their karma. If it weren’t for the powerful force of karma, Buddha would have liberated all sentient beings and there wouldn’t be any left.
One time, I was having a general conversation about Lama Yeshe with one of our geshes and he said he was surprised at the general advantages that so many people had received, and their prosperity in Dharma. He said that sometimes it was to do with the protector; that Lama could bring so much benefit in the West due to the protector. And Lama himself said it was the protector. Some people might be familiar with that protector and think the protector will do that work. They think the benefits are because of the protector. At Kopan, if things were going well, I also used to say it was because of the protector, but now I don't think it is the protector. I think it's because of Lama Yeshe himself. I don't think it’s so much the protector, something separate, something else. I think what’s granting protection is Lama. I don't think there’s another protector, something else riding a horse or a lion or something. Lama is granting protection, even though Lama himself said that the protector does everything. Other people might believe this, but I don't.
The geshe said that even in Tibet, at Sera, when they were studying, Lama Yeshe was not a famous, well-known geshe with regard to education; nothing like that. But somehow in the class when he saw Lama Yeshe debating, even though Lama was no expert, there was something peculiar about him. “Peculiar” may have a bad connotation; I’m not sure if it has a bad or a good connotation. Anyway, he used to see Lama in a different way from the others, very noble and holy. He said what an incredible advantage and benefit Lama is able to bring by teaching sentient beings.
Sometimes when I used to say to Lama “I don’t need to go to the West,” Lama replied, “For some people, whatever action they do, even breathing, becomes work for other sentient beings’ benefit.” Of course, for me that is a dream, but I think it was Lama Yeshe describing himself, the qualities of his own mind. He was talking of his own experience; it had nothing to do with me—“even breathing becomes work for others.” That is a bodhisattva practitioner who has completed dzog rim. Like that, I think these are the general qualities of his holy body, holy speech and holy mind.
Most people who met him or heard teachings from him know this; I don’t need to explain—it’s common knowledge. He has a particular quality which simply cannot be expressed. In order to generate faith or to see the guru as the essence of Buddha, an effective method is to think of the qualities of the guru’s holy body, speech and mind in all actions. This is from our own experience, not something that is taken from scriptures, not imitating. It should be our own experience; what we have seen, heard and felt. So you bring this into your own meditation. Remember—faith is very effective for the mind.
The more we think of these good qualities, the more our wrong thoughts are obscured, cut down. You see, it’s uncommon to be able to see many good qualities that we don’t have ourselves in someone else; and when we see these qualities, we can’t find fault at the same time. So it’s a puzzle, sometimes seeing faults and then these good qualities. It is seeing these qualities, however, that stops the thoughts of finding fault from arising. As Lama Tsongkhapa said, the more we see good qualities and the less we see mistakes in others, the smaller and weaker their faults become. So we should think: the qualities of the holy body are like this, the holy speech is like this, and the holy mind is like this. Also think: this guru taught me this, and the holy action that he does to me is this and this. So does it lead me to enlightenment or not? It definitely benefits to achieve enlightenment in your mind, even if it is the lung of a mantra, whatever it is, it definitely benefits our degenerate minds.
By doing this, the guru definitely leads us to enlightenment. So if the one who does this action is not a manifestation of Shakyamuni Buddha, then who else can be Shakyamuni Buddha working for us? If it’s not, then who else can be Shakyamuni Buddha? If this is not the action of Shakyamuni Buddha, then there is no one to point out as working for us.
I didn’t mean to go this way but since I have, there are just a few points I want to emphasize. If we think well about Shakyamuni Buddha and his biography, how he worked for others when he was in India in bhikshu form, then I think it helps a great deal. The more we remember how he worked for sentient beings without effort, the more it helps your meditation on your guru. When we have faith that Shakyamuni Buddha is guiding us, then I think there’s no other way to relate. When we have faith in that then we see the connection between the guru from whom we receive teachings and Shakyamuni Buddha, the enlightened being.
We should remember the stories we are familiar with even though we don’t know much: the great path arhat, the small path arhat; how Guru Shakyamuni Buddha came along the great path where the baby was waiting, then he came along the small path where the other baby was waiting. That is because the karma was ripening, the right time happened. So if it had not been the right time, even though the baby was waiting, Shakyamuni Buddha wouldn’t have come along the path. Whenever it was the right time to subdue sentient beings without any effort, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha arrived. Just as when there are no other hindrances, no mountains or rocks, when the moon rises, its reflection is seen clearly in water. Like that, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is just there, without any effort.
Another example is the old man who became an arhat. When he was screaming outside the monastery, his karma ripened at that moment and Shakyamuni Buddha, even though very far away, appeared right in front of him and asked him questions. Also the person who had incredible attachment—Shakyamuni Buddha’s younger brother—in a gradual way Buddha subdued and guided him, and at the right time, the karma ripened. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha went begging for alms to his house. Similarly, there was the very ignorant monk who couldn’t memorize even two words—before he’d learnt the second, he’d forgotten the first. He was crying and so depressed. In that moment, his karma ripened; it was the right time to subdue him. So without a second’s delay, Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in front of him, asked questions, and explained some things to him. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha let him clean people’s shoes.
There are so many stories like these. When it is the right time for sentient beings to be subdued, without a second’s delay, Shakyamuni Buddha is there doing work for them. If Buddha is working even for animals, why not for us human beings? So of course we are guided by Shakyamuni Buddha; we are not barbarians. That much Dharma wisdom we know, practicing Dharma, having received perfect human bodies. You see, Shakyamuni Buddha made prayers in the past, five hundred prayers to subdue in these degenerate times the hundred-year-old sentient beings who are most difficult to subdue, those who haven’t been subdued by other buddhas. We have the Dharma wisdom eye, practicing Dharma, so there is no question, not the slightest doubt, that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is definitely guiding us. The only way we can find out how he is guiding us is through our own guru, the one who gives us different teachings. So the more we understand Shakyamuni Buddha’s life stories, the more helpful it is.
One thing I left out and want to mention is all the courses that have taken place so far and how the first course started at Kopan. There was Zina, and we came to Bodhgaya, and there was Zengo, the Japanese monk, who was doing meditation courses. Somehow Zina was very interested in that program, so she pushed Lama very much to give a course like that. Lama did not accept; we were there for the teachings. Then we came back to Kopan, and I was very interested in doing a course. I had never spoken before; I didn’t know lamrim, and in order to speak on lamrim, of course you should know it. At that time, during Zina’s time, I had a very good time, a very good opportunity to practice Dharma, very helpful in thought training. I enjoyed it very much, not so many people came to Kopan. Many hippies, many of Zina’s friends used to come just to eat, talk, or hang around. They lived in Kathmandu; it was full of them—Kathmandu was like an ant heap, Westerners everywhere, so many young people.
Zina asked Lama for a long time, but he didn’t accept. Then she asked me, so I asked Lama—somehow I was very enthusiastic. I think because she gave me such a good opportunity to practice. Generally, I had a very good time, because there were so many opportunities to practice thought training. So I asked Lama and he said, “If you think it’s beneficial, you do it.” At that time, I was not observing many auspicious signs, though I might have done so, I’m not sure. Then I accepted to do it. I think it was ten days. There was an American nun and Sylvia, who translated the sufferings of the three lower realms briefly, then the preta sufferings quite extensively, each meditation a few lines, like that, up to equanimity. Then more on the narak. Each session was a different meditation, and we started right from the beginning.
At that time some people used to hang around who used to live in and around Bodhgaya. Zengo’s disciples and he himself came on the second day. I was talking about the benefit of cherishing others. Somehow that very first course turned out beneficial. So that’s how the Kopan courses started. Nick and Yeshe Khadro were at the third course.
During those first courses up to the sixth, I think, somehow I never felt I was the one who was speaking. I am not just making this up or admiring myself, but this I truly feel. I think maybe I was surprised and from the depth of my heart I don’t feel I was the one who was speaking. I have always been one hundred percent sure in my heart that Lama Yeshe was doing it. When somebody said, “Oh, the course has been beneficial, blah, blah,” in my mind I was thinking, even though I didn’t say the words, “This was not me, it was Lama Yeshe.” After the sixth course, I don’t know what happened; maybe I did something wrong, because from that time it did not feel like that any more. But during those six courses, I was definitely not speaking; it was beneficial due to Lama’s kindness.
As I mentioned before, by not losing faith and continuously fulfilling Lama’s wishes and doing work for the centers, whatever Lama advises, then Lama will be pleased, as he has been so far with your work. If it continues like this, then what is said in the Kalachakra teachings will happen. By making offerings to all the buddhas and guiding millions of lives of millions of creatures for three eons, even though we do that much, we cannot become enlightened in this life. But if we have faith towards the guru, we will generate realizations and will achieve enlightenment in this life. So I think the hard work for sentient beings, offering service to Lama, and fulfilling his wishes, these things are in themselves the quick path to enlightenment.
As regards the teachings, preserving them is not just a matter of words, not only receiving the lineage of initiations, because there are two types of teachings: the understanding of the words, and the realizations. We don’t have the realizations now; we don’t have the realizations of the three principles of the path. But among the three higher trainings, we do have moral conduct. So as His Holiness recently mentioned, “Wherever there is ordination of individual liberation, wherever there is that, there is me.”
Also in the Sojong Sutra it says that we should recognize the individual liberation ordination as the actual Buddha, then take care of the precepts; through this the teachings will exist a long time. We should have those three recognitions. No matter what happens to the teachings of others, what we possess, it is said in the sutras, is like the bridge that goes to the good place we wish to reach. This bridge crosses the water of samsara; it is the bridge to reach nirvana and omniscient mind. This is the path to defeat delusions. These are the steps towards liberation, the four steps. After I die this is your Buddha, the pratimoksha ordination is your Buddha.
Also it is said that it is extremely difficult to meet the guru, to have the Buddha descend to earth, and from our side, it is difficult to find a human form. But Buddha has descended, we have received a human form and the rare opportunity of moral conduct. Then we have good friends around, living in the same practice and helping. We also have an example, which is difficult to find. But all those difficulties and rare conditions are all gathered now—we have all these. As Lama Tsongkhapa said in the Lamrim Chenmo, in the graduated path of the middle scope being, the best body to have in order to practice tantra is that of a fully ordained monk. So we have to check and find out why that is. I think the best practitioners of tantra are gelongs, because it is easier to accomplish and quicker because they live in the precepts. You can check and find out.
As for Western lay people having faith and devotion towards Western Sangha, I’m not sure. Generally it looks difficult. Some who think a lot about karma might have some faith in western Sangha. If there is no faith in their minds, there is nothing to degenerate. In order to degenerate faith in the minds of others, there has to be faith in others’ minds. So maybe you generate faith in order to degenerate—I’m joking! What I am saying is, if someone has devotion and faith in the Sangha, then through wrong conduct, if we degenerate and it changes their faith towards the Sangha, if we have taken tantric vows and received initiations, we receive the second root downfall. If, through wrong conduct, it changes others’ faith towards you or the Sangha, then it is a downfall. In order to receive a complete downfall, we need the four vices, but there is a danger of receiving a root downfall. We should remember these things. It is explained in the sutra teachings that if we sleep with a person who has degenerated precepts, then it creates the negative karma to be born in the narak for nineteen million human years. We have to suffer in the narak for nineteen million human years.
We can remember the story of a bodhisattva. When he was coming through the desert from the ocean to find jewels, he saw two dogs eating someone’s brains in a house at night. During the daytime it became a luxurious palace, and the dogs became two beautiful girls, like goddesses or devas, with one son. This was because in the past in India, they took precepts from an arhat and kept them during the day, whereas at night they didn’t keep the precepts. The reason the two dogs were eating the son’s brains is that at night-time he didn’t keep the precepts, but with attachment was kissed on the head, etc.
When there is danger of degenerating the precepts, the most beneficial thing to do is tonglen practice—taking on all sentient beings’ sufferings. Not only their present sufferings, but all they will experience up to enlightenment and all the causes of attachment everything—completely take it on your own attachment. As in the Lama Chöpa tonglen prayer, think how wonderful if they were free and I received all that on myself; how wonderful it would be if I alone experienced all this suffering. That cuts off the uptightness or lung. As long as thought training is practiced, it definitely benefits as soon as it is in the mind. But as long as long as it is not practiced, then there are problems.
It can also help to generate compassion towards the other person, whether that person is living in ordination or not; this helps stop the arising of delusions, such as attachment. Think: this is a mother sentient being; this is his or her one time trying to do something good, trying to work for omniscient mind, for liberation, trying to practice Dharma. After all the sufferings of the lower realms, this one time he is trying to do something good. How wonderful this is, how good it is. So many lifetimes from beginningless time, so much suffering, and now he is trying to work for release from samsara; this one time he is trying to practice correctly. If I cannot help him practice Dharma and achieve omniscient mind, at least I should not bring him down to the narak with me. See the person as very pitiful. From this, pure compassion arises and the disturbing thought attachment becomes invisible. Compassion covers the mind. This is one very good way, for it helps generate bodhicitta. Our wish is for the other person to practice Dharma, we are inspired to help him or her reach omniscient mind. Also practice rejoicing, “This one time he is trying to do something good—how wonderful it is.”
Different things can be effective for different people’s minds. So when we dream of a very handsome, beautiful person and we recognize this as a dream whilst dreaming, then we think, “This is a dream.” Immediately the attachment stops because there is no opportunity for it to arise—it collapses. It is a kind of possession of the mind; it’s the way mind projects or creates. Similarly, when we compare the body to which we have great attachment to another, we feel less attachment. You see, when we compare it to another body, even though we believe that it is the most beautiful one there is, we can see that the other body’s beauty changes and degenerates. In the same way, this one will become less beautiful, and so our attachment lessens. The way that the mind creates and clings is not so much from the side of the object, but depends on the mind.
Also as Sangha, teaching Dharma because of Lama Yeshe’s kindness, there is more and more opportunity now to study and to understand more extensively the various teachings. If the Sangha are educated, there are two advantages that other people receive. One is the transmission of Dharma understanding. The other is that when we receive teachings and see the teacher living in discipline and practicing himself, it makes a difference. It persuades others to be more like the Sangha teacher. By living in moral conduct, the Sangha inspires others to accumulate merit.
So not only do people practice lamrim and understand the teachings, but they also take the example and live in moral conduct, create more merit, and reach omniscient mind more quickly. It’s not the same for everybody, but generally as lay people, they don’t live as examples of moral conduct. So for disciples, there is no influence or inspiration to live in moral conduct or accumulate extra merit. The higher training of moral conduct is difficult even though only five or eight precepts can be taken. That is one thing to feel happy about—the benefits we can offer others.
The conclusion is that, day and night, Lama Yeshe keeps busy for us, bears hardships for us, and is concerned for our temporal and ultimate happiness. All this Dharma, all these programs and centers, the Dharma Celebration, all these things were set up for us. Besides this, what can be done, now or in the future? Lama Yeshe keeping so busy, not having time to relax, is for our benefit. By remembering his kindness from our hearts, by remembering all the advantages that we have received from Lama Yeshe and all the efforts, the time and energy that Lama has dedicated for us, by remembering this again and again, we should think to repay it. The way to repay it is by fulfilling what Lama has in mind.
What Lama has in mind is our happiness and the happiness of other sentient beings. In order to fulfill Lama’s advice, we have been dedicating so much, which is a cause to rejoice. To continue to fulfill Lama’s wishes—that itself is the path. For example, Atisha was able to do great work teaching sentient beings in India and Tibet because he had many gurus and did nothing wrong against them. Like that, we should follow Lama’s advice for whatever is most beneficial in our life for the happiness of other sentient beings. Think, what is the most beneficial thing? Then give up small beneficial actions and choose the greatly beneficial ones. Practicing like this we accomplish happiness for self and others and repay what Lama has in mind.
By fulfilling Lama’s wishes we also repay Guru Shakyamuni Buddha who, with much hardship, accumulated merit for three countless eons when he was a bodhisattva in order to reach enlightenment for us. He put one thousand nails in his holy body just to receive teachings; he wrote teachings on his skin with bones and used blood as ink—there are many stories like this, as explained in the sutras. So he revealed the complete path. The complete path to enlightenment is there; it is up to us to practice it. So if we practice, Shakyamuni Buddha does not feel disappointed, and it becomes worthwhile that he and all the other pandits, Atisha, etc., revealed the path. As it says in the six-session yoga, “All the sublime and general realizations come by following you, the savior, correctly. By seeing this please grant me blessings to practice what will please you even to the point of giving up my life.”
You should remember this advice when you work for centers and have an especially difficult time. If confusion is in the mind, it is very helpful to remember the long six-session yoga prayer.
In the tantric teachings it says the fortunate one is expert in doing work for the guru. It’s much more meaningful than making prostrations to the buddhas of the three times. If we accomplish exactly what our guru wishes, then all our wishes get fulfilled. For example, some people say, “I didn’t get time to do a retreat because there was too much work,” or “I want to do this, but Lama says to do that.” But on the way whatever wishes we have for ourselves will also get fulfilled, and we will accumulate infinite merit. If we please our guru with our material possessions, then we breathe in the realm of the nirmanakaya and reach a pure land.
As it says in Lama Chöpa, “All degenerations, all sufferings, all shortcomings come from self-cherishing thoughts. All perfection comes from cherishing others.” As it says in Lama Chöpa, this should be our main practice from morning to night, all the time. As much as possible, even if we have just one minute or one hour or one day, our three doors should be engaged in extensive, beneficial works for all sentient beings by following the guru’s advice. There is nothing else to think except to cherish sentient beings with our body, speech, and mind. There is no one to work for except sentient beings. At the moment, the object of our cherishing is only ourselves, and the work we do is only for ourselves. We need to change that so the only object we cherish in our hearts is others, all the time, every minute, every hour. We should keep that constantly in our hearts—there is no other work than work for sentient beings.
I will stop now as it’s becoming quite long. I hope it will benefit some people; those who practice will get profit. That’s all.