Motivation in Daily Life

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Singapore (Archive #368)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching on motivation at the New Park Hotel, Singapore on 10 February 1994. Edited by Ven. Sarah Thresher.

Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche at Lawudo Retreat Centre, Solu Khumbu, Nepal, 1970. Photo possibly by Terry Clifford.

The Mind is the Door for Happiness and Suffering
I was asked to speak about the motivation for the new year. I am very happy to speak about motivation because the mind is the door for happiness, and also the mind is the door for suffering. The mind is the door for all life's problems, and the mind is the door also for the happiness and success of life. So therefore, for each of us, our own individual minds are the door for our day-to day life's success, peace, harmony, but also problems. Or another deeper way of putting it is that for each of us our minds are the door for the highest, peerless happiness of enlightenment, but also the door for the hell realms.

So our motivation in daily life is the most important thing, the first thing to watch, take care of and transform. This is the most important practice.

For example, when you meditate and keep the mind quiet, peaceful and in a virtuous state, with the thought of compassion and benefiting others, then the blood pressure suddenly goes down and one's health improves. Due to the positive way of thinking, taking care of the mind, keeping it peaceful, there is an immediate positive effect on the health affected by the mind, the attitude. Due to one's own mind and motivation, suddenly one's health improves and there is rest. So the best way of resting and to be healthy is by keeping the mind in virtue.

The Real Purpose of Our Lives
Now, first, the purpose of our lives is to free everyone from all the sufferings and to obtain happiness for them. This understanding is extremely essential because real happiness and satisfaction come from this. Living one's life with this attitude, the thought of benefiting others, is the best way to achieve happiness and success.

Universal Responsibility
The next thing is that if each of us has compassion towards each other, starting from the family—those who are nearest to us, whether human beings or animals—and spreading out to all the rest of the living beings nobody receives harm from us. Not only do they receive peace, but also because of having compassion we do something to benefit others, to free them from suffering. So in this way we cause other sentient beings to have both temporary and ultimate happiness.

But if one doesn't have compassion towards others, then this doesn't happen. And, without compassion, our ego, self-cherishing thought, other emotional minds and disturbing thoughts cause harm to others.

Therefore, each of us is responsible for the happiness and peace of all other living beings because it is up to what each of us does with our own mind, whether we have compassion or not. Without compassion others receive harm, with compassion they don't receive harm, they receive peace. So each of us has the universal responsibility to obtain happiness for all other living beings.

So Fortunate to Be Born a Human Being
So I'll explain the motivation as a Buddhist and as a non-Buddhist. Even if someone is not a Buddhist, still they can have a good heart, lead a positive life and accumulate virtue.

Usually an effective way to think when the day begins or when the New Year begins, the way to establish happiness and peace in our heart to make each day or year meaningful is to think: "According to my mental state, having so much delusion like rainfall, it is so surprising that I have this precious human body. I should be in the lower realms!" Try to rejoice and feel happy.

Then think of the many causes of death: that in this Southern Continent the life-span is not fixed, so nothing is definite, and now because this is a degenerate time life is much shorter. Then, there are one's own disturbing thoughts, ego, anger and so forth; the inner unbalanced four elements that cause disease and death; danger from the outside four elements; then, generally, there are 424 diseases and also 80,000 interferers and 360 spirits or "possessions" that are conditions for death.

Think: "There are so many conditions for death that in reality my life is like a flickering candle in the wind that can go out at any time. It's a miracle, so surprising that I haven't yet died. How amazing!" Rejoice at how fortunate you are.

"Again today so far I have not died and not only have I been born as a human being but I also have a precious human rebirth qualified with the eight freedoms and ten richnesses. How precious this is. How wonderful it is. It is like a dream." You should appreciate this and feel happiness in the heart.

So Fortunate to Have Met the Buddhadharma
Then think: "Not only have I met Buddhadharma and am able to practice it, which means that I have an unmistaken reliable object of refuge: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and know what are the unmistaken causes of happiness and suffering. Not just that but also I have met the Mahayana teachings, the Greater Vehicle teachings, which means I can achieve not just liberation from samsara but full enlightenment and free every being from all the sufferings and lead to enlightenment. How fortunate, how precious this is, it's like a dream that I have met the Mahayana teachings."

After this somebody who has met the secret mantra teachings of Mahayana, the Vajrayana should think: "Not only have I met Mahayana teachings but also I have met the secret mantra Mahayana Vajrayana, and not only that but of the four tantras I have met the highest tantra, Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra, with which one can achieve enlightenment within one brief lifetime, a few years. How precious it is. How fortunate I am that I have met this." So, like this, recognize how you are so fortunate.

Making the Decision to Practice Dharma
So now we have gone through all the opportunities and incredible freedoms we have, we have to make a decision: "How am I going to practice Dharma?"

The conclusion is: "By correctly devoting to the virtuous friend (one's own spiritual guide) on the basis of that I am going as much as possible to do the listening, reflecting, meditation practice on the path." Make the determination how you are going to practice.

The reason why I say 'on the basis of correctly devoting to the virtuous friend' is because if what you are doing is not in accordance with the advice, the holy mind, of your spiritual guide, if it's the opposite, then even though you practice Dharma very hard, doing retreat and many things, your mind cannot develop and no realizations can come. Therefore the best most successful way to practice Dharma is on the basis of correctly devoting to the virtuous friend. This way, all the success comes without any hardship or obstacles.

Renounce the "I", Cherish Others
Then, somebody who is practicing Dharma must think: "I am going to die today." Completely decide this. Then, the question comes: "What should I do now?"

The answer is to practice bodhicitta: renouncing the "I" and cherishing others. Renounce the "I" because cherishing the "I" is the door to all the problems and sufferings now and in the future. Whereas cherishing others, even one sentient being—one person or one animal—opens the door to all happiness, peace and realizations up to enlightenment. Cherishing even one living being opens the door for all good things up to enlightenment.

So think: "The purpose of my life is to obtain happiness for all sentient beings and to do this I myself must achieve full enlightenment, the state of omniscient mind. For this reason, from now on I am going to practice every virtue and whatever I do with my body, speech and mind will only be to free all sentient beings from suffering and to obtain happiness for them."

If we motivate like this every morning, dedicating whatever action we are going to do from now on with our body, speech and mind to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings then all our actions become the unmistaken cause of happiness in this life and future lives. This is the bodhicitta motivation so it makes all our actions become the cause of highest success, full enlightenment.

Then pray that: "From now on, whatever virtue, whatever action of body, speech and mind that I do, may it only become the cause to achieve enlightenment and free all sentient beings from all the sufferings and lead them to enlightenment."

Pray very strongly, intensely from the heart, by remembering the virtuous friend, one's root guru, or all the ten directions buddhas and bodhisattvas. Pray very strongly and repeat it three times. The more it is repeated the stronger and better it is.

Then make the very strong prayer: "May I be able to benefit all the sentient beings like Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, like Lama Atisha, like Lama Tsongkhapa, like Milarepa, and like all the holy beings, like them." Make a very strong prayer like that.

If you do this every day, then because everything is due to the power of the mind, it can definitely happen. By motivating with bodhicitta every morning, not only the indifferent actions can be transformed to virtue but even what appear to be negative actions. Even these get transformed into virtue and become the cause for enlightenment due to the power of bodhicitta, the power of the positive mind.