Motivation for Offering Service

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy (Archive #1961)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this inspiring talk to students at the FPMT's European Regional Meeting on June 17, 2014. Rinpoche teaches on the four immeasurables and the kindness of others, and advises why Western students need to actualize the path. The regional meeting was hosted by Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy. Lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Roger Kunsang, Italy, June 2014.  Photo: Matteo Passigato.
Four Immeasurables
Immeasurable equanimity

“How wonderful it is if all the mother sentient beings abide in equanimity, free from discriminating thoughts, anger and attachment, some are closer and some are far.” If everybody in the world is able to live their life without the discriminating thought, anger and attachment, can you imagine what peace, what great peace and happiness everyone would have—animals, people. Wow, wow, wow, wow. If all their problems—global problems, individual problems, country problems—don’t happen, there would be unbelievable, unbelievable peace.

So then, no question that numberless animals suffer—not only due to their delusions, but because of people’s total control, they suffer. They’re not only suffering due to their delusions, but also people totally control them. Animals have no rights, no rights. Humans treat animals as toilet paper, as tissue paper or toilet paper; like that, animals are used. They’re the same as us, wanting happiness and not wanting suffering, but they are treated as tissue paper. Can you imagine? Can you imagine, millions and millions, zillions, trillions are killed in this world every day.

There are numberless. Wow, wow, wow. Billions, billions, billions are killed—chickens and pigs. Pigs’ bodies are made fat and then they are killed at the end. Wow, wow. So anyway, numberless animals are totally controlled by human beings and as I said, they are treated like vegetables, like plants. There are numberless, not counted, numberless beings who are killed every hour in the world.

Like in Syria or many countries, those Muslim countries, and like Tibet, this [violence] is done by the mind. All the wars, all these bombings, all those innocent people, poor people, get killed. So many [are killed] on the way. This violence is created by the mind, which doesn’t have form, color or shape, it’s untouchable, but this is what it can do if it is not subdued. If it is not subdued, we are not happy.

Even if you are retreating, even if you are in an isolated place, if you’re not taking care of your mind you are not doing real retreat. Even though you are in an isolated place, you are not really practicing Dharma if you’re not taking care of your mind. Your mind goes under the control of attachment, ignorance, anger and so forth. You are not retreating, not becoming Dharma, not living in Dharma. You are not happy, you torture yourself and your mind brings problems. Not practicing Dharma, not taking care of your mind brings problems. Nobody brings you problems, but you bring problems to yourself.

Then the delusion, attachment, becomes stronger and stronger, and then sometimes even the thought of suicide comes, even during retreat, even in retreat or like that. Anyway, the mind is something untouchable; we can't see it, we can’t touch it, but if it’s not subdued it’s so dangerous—wow, wow, wow—it’s unbelievably dangerous. So the global problems, the country problems, society problems, family problems and individual problems all come from the mind. Therefore, it becomes an important issue to practice, to subdue the mind, so we can bring peace in the world to others, to numberless sentient beings, in particular, in this world. That is the responsibility that we have, each one of us. So that is something to think about. That is basis of practicing Buddhism.

How important it is, the first one, the first immeasurable thought of equanimity. “How wonderful it is if all the sentient beings abide in equanimity, free from anger and attachment, some sentient beings far and some are closer. May they be free from these discriminating thoughts. May they abide in the equanimity, free from these discriminating thoughts.” We pray to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, from whom we took refuge and generate bodhicitta, so from that: “I will cause the mother sentient beings to abide in the equanimity. Please grant me blessings to be able to do this.” Then this purifies all their discriminating thoughts and generates all the realizations, and especially the immeasurable thought of equanimity within oneself.

How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings were to abide in equanimity, free from the closeness of attachment and the distance of hatred.
May they abide in equanimity.
I myself will cause them to abide in equanimity.
Please, Guru-Deity, bless me to be able to do this.

Immeasurable loving kindness

The next one is the immeasurable thought of loving kindness. Generally, of course, “How wonderful it is if all the sentient beings abide in the happiness and the cause of happiness. May they have happiness, and I will cause them happiness. Please grant me blessings to be able to do this.” But when we say “happiness,” many of us might think of just ordinary happiness. There’s a danger that we are wishing only ordinary happiness, because [hearing] the word “happiness” the mind usually thinks of ordinary happiness and doesn’t think of enlightenment. We don’t think of ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara. So, for me, when I hear “happiness,” for ordinary beings it’s just ordinary happiness, that kind of thinking. In case there are people who think like me, that’s not so good. We’re only thinking, only praying for sentient beings’ ordinary happiness, the happiness they experience with attachment. But this is nothing new, nothing new. They have experienced this already numberless times from beginningless rebirths, so it’s nothing new—having children, getting married and having a family and so on and so forth, getting a university degree, climbing Mount Everest or whatever. All this is nothing new.

When I do recite this, I say “enlightenment,” I purposely say enlightenment. “How wonderful it is if all the sentient beings abide in enlightenment and the cause of enlightenment,” so enlightenment. Of course, that way, if we use the word enlightenment, then it’s very useful, it always makes you think that. It’s very, very good, so good. This is what they need, ultimate happiness, not just only temporal happiness all the time. That is the suffering of change, that is another suffering.

Of course, you can do prayers for lower realm beings to achieve a higher rebirth and temporary happiness, however, ultimately what they need is total cessation of the delusions, the disturbing thoughts and karma, the action and result. They need to achieve the ultimate happiness, the cessation of suffering. We haven’t achieved that, the ultimate happiness, and that’s why we are suffering. We have been suffering up to now, up to this hour, this minute. So I recite “enlightenment.” I change it, so it has value. Otherwise if we say “happiness,” then we think only of ordinary happiness—that is not good. Then we are wishing for arhats to have ordinary happiness, but they’re beyond that already. They have achieved the arya path, so they have ceased the seed of delusion. They abide in the ultimate happiness, the blissful state of peace for themselves, so that’s forever.

If we can think of ultimate happiness, liberation from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and the total cessation of the obscurations and completion of the realizations, the achievement of complete realizations, sang gye, so if we can think that, then it’s very good. Even though we use “happiness,” if we can think of those two ultimate happinesses, it’s very, very good. Otherwise, we are wishing for even the bodhisattvas, the arya bodhisattvas, the arhats, to have temporary happiness, so it’s like that.

“How wonderful it is if all the sentient beings abide in the enlightenment and the cause of enlightenment. May they abide in the enlightenment. I will cause them to abide in the enlightenment.” So that is taking responsibility on ourselves, not just praying “May they abide in enlightenment”—not just praying but taking responsibility on ourselves. And particularly if we can think of somebody who we don’t like, who we hate or somebody who dislikes us, who complains about us. If we have somebody like that, then particularly think of them, relate to that. It’s so good, we are taking responsibility. “Please grant me blessings to be able to do this.” Pray to the guru, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. Think that all the wrong concepts, particularly anger, are removed, purified, and all the realizations, especially loving kindness, are generated within us, in the form of light.

How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings were to achieve buddhahood.
May they achieve buddhahood.
I myself will cause them to achieve buddhahood.
Please, Guru-Deity, bless me to be able to do this.

Immeasurable compassion

Now generating the immeasurable thought of compassion. “How wonderful it is if all the sentient beings, the mother sentient beings, are free from suffering and the cause of the sufferings. May they be free from suffering and the cause. I will cause them to be free from suffering and its cause. Please grant me blessings to be able to do this.” And then think they are purified all the wrong concepts, particularly the self-cherishing thought, and they have received all the realizations, particularly the immeasurable thought of compassion.

How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings were free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they be free from suffering and its causes.
I myself will cause them to be free from suffering and its causes.
Please, Guru-Deity, bless me to be able to do this.

Immeasurable joyfulness

Now generating the immeasurable thought of joyfulness. “How wonderful it is if all the sentient beings are not separated away from the happiness of the upper realms and ultimate happiness. May they not be separated away from these two happinesses. I will cause them to not be separated away from the happiness of the upper realms and ultimate happiness. Please guru-buddhas, grant me blessings to be able to do this.”

How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings were never separated from the happiness of higher rebirth and liberation.
May they never be separated from these.
I myself will cause them never to be separated from these.
Please, Guru-Deity, bless me to be able to do this.

Generating bodhicitta

Then generating bodhicitta. “For the sake of all my kind mother sentient beings, numberless beings who have been suffering from the beginningless rebirth, experiencing samsaric rebirth and the hell suffering; our own kind mother sentient beings who have been experiencing hungry ghost suffering from beginningless rebirth; numberless beings, our own kind mother sentient beings who have been experiencing the animal suffering from beginningless rebirth; our kind mother sentient beings, the numberless beings who have been experiencing from beginningless time the human suffering; then the sura beings’ suffering, the asura beings’ suffering and the intermediate beings’ suffering. May they all be free of the oceans of samsaric suffering and may I bring them to the peerless happiness, sang gye, the state of total elimination of obscurations and the total, complete realizations. Therefore, for that method, to be able to do that, I, myself, should achieve the state of omniscient mind, sang gye. For that, I’m going to [attend] this meeting, in order to eliminate the obstacles, the sufferings of the sentient beings, and to cause all the happiness, both temporary and ultimate.”

The main one is the ultimate happiness, the state of liberation from the oceans of samsaric suffering. The main one is that. The main one is that peerless happiness, the state of omniscient mind. The ultimate one is that. So we are having this meeting on that, how to do that, to develop wisdom and compassion.

We’ll recite the true words, the motivation. Whether you are working at the center or whether you are working in the family or whether you are living alone, whatever, the motivation is the same. The motivation, as mentioned in the first verse of the Eight Verses. “Whether the other sentient being practices compassion or patience to me or not, whether they practice Dharma or not, from my side, what I’m going to do is always cherish the sentient beings.” [Tibetan] So always cherish the sentient beings.

First of all, with the thought of achieving supreme success from the sentient beings, by depending on them. The first success is achieving higher rebirth, in a pure land or a deva or human rebirth. By practicing morality to the sentient beings through kindness, not harming but benefiting them by practicing morality, then we achieve a higher rebirth. Then second, by practicing the three higher trainings, the first one is the higher training of morality, so by training in that, then we achieve the ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara. By the kindness of sentient beings we achieve that.

Then by generating compassion for the sentient beings, we achieve enlightenment. So we achieve all three sublime successes, rather than happiness of this life. Achieving the happiness of future lives depends on the kindness of sentient beings. Then even higher than that, liberation from samsara, so supreme. Then from those two, even more supreme is enlightenment. By generating compassion for the sentient beings we achieve enlightenment.

How sentient beings are most kind

By cherishing these sentient beings, by cherishing even one sentient being, we achieve a higher rebirth. By cherishing that sentient being, secondly, we also get liberation from samsara. By cherishing that sentient being, we achieve enlightenment, sang gye, the total elimination of the obscurations and the total, complete realizations. Even if it’s not every sentient being, but even cherishing one sentient being, cherishing one insect, cherishing one person whom we call “enemy,” who badly treat us, whatever, that is just an example anyway. So cherishing even one sentient being, we get all this happiness from that. Therefore the sentient beings are so kind. Even one sentient being is the most precious, the most kind, most dear, the real wish-fulfilling.

Now, the wish-granting jewel. There are gold, diamonds and sapphires, which are precious among the common materials, but even more precious than those precious gems is the wish-granting jewel. What I saw in the book, it says that Buddha’s relics after some time go into the ocean, then they become a wish-granting jewel. Then the universal kings or bodhisattvas with unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable merit find it. Then through cleaning it in the three ways, they put the wish-granting jewel on top of a banner, on top of the house. They put up the banner, then whatever they pray for—any material comforts, any needs of this life, any temporary needs, temporary comforts of this life—whatever they pray for, they get. But that [wish-granting jewel] doesn’t purify the negative karma and we don’t receive a higher rebirth just from that. Also, just by having a wish-granting jewel, we don’t achieve liberation from samsara. We don’t achieve that and we don’t achieve enlightenment from that. It has no mind, no suffering, so how could we generate compassion on the wish-granting jewel?

So you see, this sentient being who treats us badly, who abuses us, who dislikes us, who complains about us, who makes fun of us or whatever, if we cherish that person, wow! We get all these three levels of happiness and especially enlightenment, supreme success. Therefore, this sentient being who treats us badly is most precious, most kind. The guru teaches us, the Buddha explained to us, the guru teaches us how to practice patience, but this one [sentient being] makes us put that into practice. They make us put that teaching into practice and to actualize patience, compassion. And through patience, by actualizing patience, then we are able to complete the paramita of patience. Then from that, we are able to achieve enlightenment. That’s how that person gives us enlightenment.

Even Buddha, Dharma and Sangha with whom we take refuge all the time, to free us from the oceans of samsaric suffering, who makes us free from the oceans of samsaric suffering by actualizing the true path and the true cessation of suffering, by ceasing the cause, delusion and karma, all that. Even Buddha, Dharma and Sangha come from sentient beings, from this person who treats us badly. They came from that, from this mosquito, from this person who treats us badly, who abuses us, who cheats us, who has stolen things from us, whatever, whom we think, “They treated me badly.” Even Buddha, Dharma and Sangha came from them.

So it is by their qualities—of course, the Buddha—but by the kindness of the sentient beings, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha [came from that]. Even Buddha came from the sentient beings. As the Bodhicaryavatara mentioned, “As you respect Buddha, why don’t you respect to the sentient beings?”1 As you respect Buddha, so because of Buddha and by practicing Dharma, then you achieve enlightenment, and so forth. So same thing, Buddha came from the sentient beings. [Buddha] came from the bodhisattva; the bodhisattva came from bodhicitta; bodhicitta came from great compassion; great compassion is generated by depending on the kindness of the suffering sentient beings.

So you can see the Buddha, numberless buddhas, came from sentient beings, and same thing, Dharma came from sentient beings, Sangha came from sentient beings. This person who badly treats us or that mosquito is most kind and most precious, most dear, wish-fulfilling. So cherish them most, like that. Then with the mind like that, with the body, speech and mind, serve them. That’s the fundamental motivation of our life—not only the motivation for living at the center, but even if we’re alone, even if we’re working for the family, even if we’re doing retreat alone, whatever, that’s the best thing, especially working at the center.

How we become wish-fulfilling for sentient beings

Now, the next one. Before, [I explained how] other sentient beings are wish-fulfilling to us. Now the next one is that we become wish-fulfilling toward sentient beings, as Nagarjuna said. “May I, myself, be like a wish-granting jewel, fulfilling all the desires of the sentient beings. May I become a wish-granting jewel fulfilling all the desires of the sentient beings and a wish-granting tree in the pure land.” If we are in front of the wish-granting tree, then whatever wish we generate, everything happens. Then like that wish-granting tree, whatever hopes the sentient being has immediately get fulfilled, [we pray] to become like that. Therefore, to happen like that, we need to pray and not only pray but collect merit. We need to collect much merit and pray, dedicate merit in this way. So then, especially as we actualize the good heart, the ultimate good heart, bodhicitta, that happens.

The eighth bhumi, ninth bhumi, tenth bhumi bodhisattvas, even before becoming buddhas they can manifest for sentient beings as a bridge, as water, as a mountain, as all kinds of things. Not only as sentient beings, not only as different sentient beings like animals and so forth, but also as hell beings and hungry ghosts, maras and so forth, they can manifest in all kinds [of ways] to benefit other sentient beings. There is a need like that, in order to benefit the sentient beings. For certain sentient beings, they need to manifest like that, as maras, hungry ghosts, hell beings and animal beings. They are not that, but there’s a need for that. The Buddha needs to manifest in that way for certain sentient beings. Besides that, they can even manifest as water or a bridge and so forth, all kinds of things. So no question about the Buddha, but even bodhisattvas can manifest [like this.] It’s most amazing, amazing, amazing. It’s explained in the Madhyamaka subject, near the end. It’s unbelievable, unbelievable. It’s beyond our concept, our imagination, what they can do, even just bodhisattvas, what they can do to benefit the sentient beings. It’s amazing, amazing, amazing, when they have reached that level.

For example, as we actualize the bhumis—the first bhumi, the second bhumi, the third bhumi and so forth—hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, trillions, zillions can manifest, doing prostrations, teaching Dharma, teaching different Dharma. Wow, wow, wow, wow. It’s beyond our concept.

Thanks for arranging His Holiness’s visit

Anyway, thank you very much. Thank you very much. So here in Italy, at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, the director, Filippo, and the SPC, and the FPMT and all the staff here arranged His Holiness’s [visit] and he gave all those different teachings. Everything went so well; everything went so well. Unbelievable, unbelievable accomplishment, service, really pure. People have really enjoyed happiness that they normally don’t achieve. Normally they just enjoy external, sensual [pleasure], the attachment, and just like that, it’s nothing new, the same story from beginningless rebirths. Anyway, His Holiness is extremely pleased and so I think it went extremely well. So I want to say from my heart, really a billion, zillion, trillion, numberless, billion, zillion, trillion, numberless thanks. That’s really wonderful, the best accomplishment, as individuals and as an organization. Really, really good.

Of course, our body and mind is under the control of karma and delusion, so of course, it’s in the nature of suffering, and of course, we feel tiredness, worn out or tired, all these things happen. From beginningless rebirth we did not achieve liberation from samsara, we created the cause of these contaminated aggregates, so of course, this happens. But what I want to tell you is that many eons of negative karma are purified. You have to understand. So many eons of heavy negative karma are purified by bearing much hardship, serving the teaching of the Buddha and the sentient beings, and the guru [His Holiness], who is Compassion Buddha. So many eons from beginningless rebirths, so many eons of negative karma are purified. You have to understand, you have to rejoice in that. So the more you feel it is difficult, the more you feel tiredness, whatever happened, that is greater purification and similar to a retreat. How many sicknesses or difficulties you experience during retreat, that many eons of negative karma are purified. What you see during retreat is that sicknesses, all kind of difficulties that manifest. So many heavy karmas from many eons ago; so many heavy karmas from beginningless rebirth are purified by manifesting some difficulties during the retreat. It’s similar, similar, but even more purification is done here than in retreat.

For example, Asanga did retreat for twelve years but nothing happened, he couldn’t see Maitreya Buddha. [That happened] only when he generated great compassion for that dog full of wounds and infection, maggots. He cut his flesh from [his body] and spread it for the worms to eat, to live, then when he went to pick up the worms [with the tip of his tongue, he saw Maitreya.] He closed his eyes because he could not touch the dog and when he opened them, it was no longer a dog, it was Maitreya Buddha. Only after that he saw Maitreya Buddha; you have to understand.

Getsul Tsembulwa and the leper

In the Vajrayogini lineage, there’s a story about the great yogi, Ngagpa Chöpawa and his disciple, Getsul Tsembulwa. There was a lady waiting near the river. Ngagpa Chöpawa came first, and the lady was waiting at the shore of this lake. She was full of leprosy disease, with pus and blood coming out, so awful. So she asked, “Please take me to the other side of the river,” but Ngagpa Chöpawa left straight away to go to Oddi to complete his last practice, the external conduct, the last practice of tantra before he achieved enlightenment.

Getsul Tsembulwa came much later, and she asked him the same thing. Getsul Tsembulwa saw the lady with unbelievable, unbelievable leprosy, so terrible, so pitiful, with pus and blood coming out and she asked him to take her across to the other side of river on his back. Getsul Tsembulwa was a monk but Ngagpa Chöpawa, his guru, was not a monk, he was a lay person. As soon as Getsul Tsembulwa saw this woman, he had unbelievable, most unbelievable compassion, most unbelievable compassion, and then even though he was a monk, so he couldn’t touch the woman, he immediately grabbed her and carried her on his back without worry of getting leprosy disease or anything. He had just unbelievable compassion.

So then, in the middle of the river—he didn’t have to cross the whole river—the lady, who was not an ordinary woman but appeared as an ordinary woman, became Dorje Phagmo. In the middle of the river, that woman became Dorje Phagmo, who is the same as Vajrayogini. In essence the same, just a different label, Dorje Phagmo. It’s the same as the dog that Asanga saw—it was not a dog, it was Maitreya Buddha. Before, when his karma was not purified, he saw a dog, but when his karma was purified he saw Maitreya Buddha. In reality, it was Maitreya Buddha.

So here, Getsul Tsembulwa saw an ordinary lady, but when he carried her, unbelievable compassion arose and when he reached the middle of the river, he purified the negative karma which projected her [as ordinary.] The negative mind, the impure mind projected her as an ordinary woman, but that was purified. Then he saw Dorje Phagmo, who took him to the pure land, Dagpa Khachö, Vajrayogini’s pure land. That means he became enlightened there. It means, not sure whether Ngagpa Chöpawa became enlightened first or his disciple became enlightened first. Ngagpa Chöpawa didn’t pay attention and went straight to Oddi.

Oddi is near Buxa, I think, where I lived eight years. They have a celebration each year. Many people from Bombay go to see those caves, and I don’t know what they do. There is this place called Oddi. I haven’t been there, but my teacher, who brought me from Tibet through Bhutan to India went there. The umze from Namgyal Monastery, the elder one, I don’t know his name, he’s supposed the incarnation of [?] went there, and he heard the gyaling being played in the cave, and also music and prayers, chanting. He could hear all these things. He heard the chanting there, then he came to Dharamsala and taught the Namgyal monks, so they do that chanting. Anyway, so like that.

Therefore, so many eons of negative karma are purified, those who have worked very hard, including the director and everyone, and you have collected merits, unbelievable, unbelievable merits. By pleasing His Holiness, Chenrezig, that becomes a cause to guide us, to be guided by Chenrezig in life to life, not only in the next life, but from life to life, for hundreds and thousands [of lives] up to enlightenment, especially that. So that connection, to go up to enlightenment. That happened, so you are really unbelievably fortunate, so fortunate.

Of course, this is not the first time; this is the sixth time. Huh? I thought it is sixth. [Filippo: The fifth one.] In my letter I said sixth time. [Filippo: Next time.]

Anyway, Sakya Pandita, from where the Sakya sect came, one of the five great Sakya lamas, said,

The merit you collect by making charity of your limbs for a thousand eons, and then dedicating that merit to sentient beings, can be collected in one second when you fulfill the guru’s wishes, when you offer service to guru.

 If we make charity of our head, our legs and hands, our limbs, to sentient beings for a thousand eons—not years, eons—and even the merits we collected, we give to sentient beings for a thousand eons. Now, when we fulfill the guru’s wishes, when we offer service to the guru, then all that merit we collected by making charity of our limbs for one thousand eons and even the merit we have collected we give away to sentient beings, now here, when we serve the guru, fulfill the guru’s wishes, we collect all that merit in one second. [Rinpoche snap fingers]

So His Holiness was here for one day or two days? [Filippo: Six days.] His Holiness has been here for six days. [Filippo: From the 10th to the 16th.] So then in the guru’s path “in one second” means when you fulfill the guru’s wishes, in one second you collect all that merit that would be collected in one thousand eons—all that is collected in one second. Sakya Pandita mentioned that. As I said before, that’s how much purification is done, no matter how much you’re exhausted, all that, no sleep or exhausted, whatever it is. Sakya Pandita mentioned like that.

I don’t remember which yogi has said this; in Drop of Mahamudra it’s mentioned. [Tibetan] I don’t remember very clearly the last one. There it is mentioned,

As fire burns wood and in one second it becomes ashes …

For example, there is a big heap, three or four stories high, of dry grass, then with a candle flame or matches, a small flame, in a second it becomes ashes. Not hashish, but ashes. You can also burn the house, you can burn the mountain, the forest, with just a small flame, a candle flame.

… If the glorified guru is pleased, then the heavy negative karma collected from past lives, eons, gets purified.

I think that’s all. Thank you very much. Now I’ll stop; now you talk please.

The FPMT has come a long way

I think in the FPMT, as I have been saying for a long time, generally the people in the FPMT, the organization has been developed, it has come a long way. For many years there were so many hardships, but it has become better and better, with more understanding, more skills, and now it’s much better than back twenty years ago, fifteen or twenty years ago. Now it’s better internally, inwardly, and outwardly as well. The organization [is better] and I think it’s known as more understanding, more compassionate. The organization is kind of like that—more sincere, more compassionate, general understanding. That’s how I’m kind of feeling.

The study is quite well done now. In almost every center there’s a Basic Program and the Masters Program is becoming more and more and the study is OK. In Tibet we also had the monasteries, with some monasteries very much emphasizing study, like Sera, Ganden and Drepung, where they keep the debating texts. You can't keep sadhanas, you can't keep tantric texts or something, only debating texts—that’s where it’s like that. And then the monks are not allowed to go to [other monasteries.] The gekö, the disciplinary monk, would not allow you to go to different monasteries, to different places to take teachings, to take lamrim teachings and tantric teachings from high lamas, or initiations; they don’t allow that. You stay in the monastery to study and debate; there’s so much emphasis on study and debate. Those monasteries very much emphasize debate on the five major sutra texts. Then you go to the tantric colleges, the upper and lower tantric colleges, and study the root tantra texts. Then you learn the tantric mandalas, the chanting, the explanations, all those things. So at the end you become a fully qualified teacher to benefit sentient beings. According to whatever has been learned, you can benefit other sentient beings.

But the monasteries are not emphasizing practice, meditation practice on the basis of vinaya according to Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition. On the basis of vinaya, then meditation on lamrim and tantra, like Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo’s root guru, Dakpo Jampel Lhundrub. The monasteries are like that.

I’m not sure whether I have translated or not, but so many years ago, I was thinking that Milarepa Center in America was one place to start a stricter monastery on the basis of following the vinaya and meditation on lamrim and tantra. It’s very, very good, with one whole year for complete meditation on the lamrim—guru devotion, renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness—and then generation and completion stage. One whole year on the complete path of meditation, and not much emphasis on debating but more on vinaya practice, the main practice of the teaching of Buddha. On that basis, then meditation. Some monasteries are doing like that.

I was thinking now to start retreat places where there are groups of lay people and Sangha to actualize, on the basis of lamrim, not just zhinä. [We think] “Oh, not lamrim, zhinä, zhinä, zhinä,” but that’s nothing new; we’ve experienced zhinä numberless times. We have been born in the formless realm and the form realm numberless times, those samsaric realms, so it is nothing new—even Hindus have zhinä.

On the basis of lamrim—renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness, guru devotion—then zhinä, so to understand the essence and then to actualize. The main thing is to actualize, to have realizations. So if you can produce one person, two people, three people, who have experience of zhinä and those other meditations, then you can help so many people to be inspired and to have realizations, to have the taste, not just understanding the words but getting a real taste of Dharma, a real experience of Dharma. So we need to also develop that.

Of course, the best one is after you do extensive study of the philosophy, then practice shamatha, and then integrating lamrim and your own deity, the tantric path. Then to have realizations, to meditate on that, to have realizations. Of course, that is best. But if this is not possible, then at least to understand the essence and actualize, with very careful practice and then to actualize. So, we are just about to build houses in Washington. Khadro-la mentioned that Washington is an extremely good place for that. Then to invite, I’m not sure, somebody who has experience of the path to teach and to guide [students.] They don’t have to live there, but for several months to do retreat, like that.

When Tibet becomes liberated, having freedom, when people can go to Tibet, then hopefully maybe some students can go there and receive guidance and teachings. Or a monk who has experience could come to United States and spend a few months to guide [students.] Also Khadro-la has promised to guide the meditations.

We are just about to build the houses because we have a sponsor for a few houses and then we’ll see. I want to [include] some study but also that part, as I mentioned in the example in Tibet. I think that’s very good. Otherwise, it’s just like collecting information in the computer—only learning but not actualizing. That’s the problem. Of course, we must practice as much as possible but integrated into lamrim as much as possible, then so fortunate. Without that, without studying that, what happens is learning, learning, learning, then it’s like storing [information] in the computer.

Buddhism in the West is not much. In India and Tibet there are so many holy beings; in Tibet and in Nepal there are so many holy places where people achieved enlightenment, achieved realization, so much, so much, then the place becomes so holy. Otherwise, Buddhism in the West becomes like when you put tsampa on the river, the tsampa doesn’t go down; the tsampa stays on the river, on the water. It becomes shallow, so there’s a danger.

There was a question about Buddhism in the West and Khadro-la thinks that in the West it is more shallow. She also thinks like that. However, so it doesn’t become like that, if there are more people who sacrifice [for the Dharma] and have realizations, that’s very good. Then it can also become like Tibet or like Nepal or India. Then there is great, great, great benefit, deep benefit. Buddhism brings very deep benefit in your life, otherwise, it’s just passing information. It becomes just like that.

So thank you very much.


1 Bodhicaryavatara, Ch. 6, v. 113.  [Return to text]