Mahayana Thought Training

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal 1978 (Archive #394)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained how hindrances and adverse circumstances can become a support for Dharma practice, at the 11th Kopan Course in November 1978. This teaching is an edited excerpt from Session 10, Section Two of the course. Click here to read more.   

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching at Chenrezig Institute, Australia, 1976.

Most people these days have a very short life. When the great yogi Milarepa was living, the times had more essence, more faith and more potential, but these days, our enjoyment doesn’t have as much taste or potential as in those earlier times.

Now, the five degenerations have exploded. When we watch television or listen to the radio, we always hear about the signs of degeneration. If we practice holy Dharma, there are many more hindrances coming from many different directions to disturb our practice of Dharma. There are thousands of hindrances that come from inside our own mind and there are also many external hindrances that attack those who practice holy Dharma, and don’t let us create good karma.

In these difficult times, without practicing the thought training teachings, it is extremely difficult to continuously practice Dharma and to accomplish our Dharma practice. However, if we practice the advice of the Mahayana thought training, then adverse circumstances help our Dharma practice.

When we are trying to practice Dharma, we stop practicing when we are happy—when we are happy we are unable to continue our Dharma practice. Also, when we are miserable, suffering and depressed, and when our spirit is down, on the floor, we can’t practice Dharma. When we are very rich—when we have found a million dollars—we become crazy and we can’t relax. We don’t know whether we should fly or whether we should catch a train. Anyway, I am joking.

When we become very rich, again we are unable to practice Dharma—we forget to practice Dharma. When we become terribly poor and we don’t have the means for living, for our food, again we forget Dharma. When we get sick, again we forget Dharma. When we are higher and we become an important person or a leader of the country, again we are unable to practice Dharma. When we are very low, then again we are unable to practice Dharma, because of many hindrances. When we experience death, it is extremely difficult to practice Dharma at that time. During our life when other things happen, without being dead, we can’t practice Dharma, so our death time becomes very difficult.

If we practice the advice of the Mahayana thought training, then the five degenerations and all the hindrances to our Dharma practice become the path, the helper and the support of our thought training practice—training the mind in bodhicitta. All the adverse circumstances and hindrances, including the five degenerations, become the path to enlightenment and become beneficial for all sentient beings.

If we practice thought training, we become wise people and we cannot be disturbed by any hindrances. Whatever change happens in our life —a dangerous explosion, an atomic bomb, an earthquake or epidemic disease—everything that happens to us, for example, fighting, no food, no supermarket, no machines working—if we practice thought training, none of this disturbs us. We can transform our miserable life into happiness and we are considered wise. We are capable and competent, and we can transform all our suffering into happiness. All our mental and physical suffering becomes pleasure and happiness for us.

Therefore, necessarily, if we are able to practice like this, then wherever we travel and wherever we are, even in prison, our mind is happy all the time, and there is no reason to feel oppression or depression. To be able to do this, we need to train our mind in the basic, graduated meditation that leads to bodhicitta.

Note: See the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, a commentary by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for more advice about thought training practices.