Offering Service at the Center

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kurukulla Center, Medford, MA, USA (Archive #1888)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at Kurukulla Center, MA, in October 2012. He spoke to Kurukulla Center students after they had just hosted a very successful visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Rinpoche emphasized the great benefits of inviting His Holiness no matter how many hardships it might involve and the great benefits of working for a Dharma center in general. Lightly edited by Sandra Smith, April 2013.

You can watch Rinpoche give this teaching on Kurukulla Center's YouTube page.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama being greeted by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kurukulla Center, Boston, 2012. Photo: Devin Jones.

I’m very happy that I made it to Kurukulla Center at this time, on this great occasion, to come here and join with you to enjoy this great day. This is not a samsaric celebration; it’s a celebration of enlightenment. So, recognize that it is not a samsaric celebration, it is for liberation, for enlightenment and for the awakening mind. It is for sentient beings—for the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, sura beings, asura beings and intermediate state beings. This is what it is for and this is what we can accomplish.

Compared to this, the Olympics is nothing. Even if the Olympics makes a trillion dollars, or a zillion trillion—I don’t know how many trillion, quadrillion or whatever—but even if it makes a profit, sometimes you lose, so anyhow it is nothing. This is better than arranging the Olympics billions of times. What we accomplished at yesterday’s function, this _____[ Rinpoche asks resident teacher, Geshe Ngawang Tenley in Tibetan when the center started preparations]. Geshe-la says the preparation for yesterday’s function started three months ago, yeah?

Arranging the Olympics is such a big thing, it’s huge. Of course, I don’t know how many zillion, trillion dollars it costs, I’m not sure. Maybe on the individual person’s side, if they’re doing that action with a good heart thinking to benefit others, to bring happiness to others, with a sincere thought—it might be possible for this action, this individual’s service, to become good karma. But otherwise, there’s no benefit from that. It doesn’t purify the cause of the lower realms and it doesn’t help us to get a higher rebirth and then to achieve the ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara. And then it doesn’t have that benefit to achieve full enlightenment, the peerless happiness, the total cessation of the obscurations—not only gross, even subtle ones—and accomplish all the realizations. So then, what seems to be the main thing is to make money and for power and reputation. So it is done in order to make money and in order to get the worldly pleasure, but we don’t get all these other benefits for ourselves or for others.

But our function, starting five months ago to make preparation for yesterday’s function, it has all that power. Coming here to make preparation is service for the Compassion Buddha, Chenrezig, and also for many people. Making so much preparation for all that five months is also guru yoga. I don’t know if anybody went without sleep; if people worked hard without having sleep. I’m not sure if anybody didn’t have sleep. Did Sean have sleep?

Student: Now and again. It gets in the way.

Rinpoche. You didn’t fall asleep while you’re working? I’m joking. Now the guru yoga, services to the guru, this is the same as the six-session yoga, which is doing prayer, but this is actual service to receive Chenrezig, the embodiment of all the Buddha’s compassion. Chenrezig is here for us to see and to receive blessings, and to guide us. We receive Chenrezig here to bless us and to guide us to enlightenment; to guide us not only to the good rebirth in future lives and liberation from samsara, nirvana—not only that, but to bring us to full enlightenment, to go there.

Doing this service helps the sentient beings, so it means to benefit all, even to benefit all the six realms, the six types of sentient beings, and then especially to benefit the people who come here—to purify the defilements and collect merits and to achieve full enlightenment for everybody who comes here. So there’s a big difference; it’s huge, huge, huge, what we accomplished, it’s a huge thing. There is no comparison to the Olympics or those other big things, no comparison. There is no comparison in the quality, the benefits that we have. The Olympics have nothing, even though it costs a lot of money, a billion trillion—how many trillion I don’t know —but the benefit to the mind, this is something that really indeed benefits like the oceans. The benefit that we get and sentient beings get is deep like ocean, vast like the sky. So it benefits everybody who comes here.

So particularly our great teacher, Geshe Tsulga, requested His Holiness to come here to bless and to give teachings at the center, for our benefit, to guide us to enlightenment. So Geshe Tsulga made a special request and His Holiness fully accepted, and so like that. Then Geshe-la and the students, and here the young people, the students, put effort; they worked very hard, they worked very, very hard. They worked very, very hard and I think it’s very, very, very, very worthwhile.

As I mentioned, this is guru yoga practice, so you have to realize all the hardships here, during this month especially, have purified so many eons of negative karma collected from beginningless rebirth—so many eons. It’s unbelievable, you can’t imagine the numberless eons of negative karma that get purified. Numberless eons of negative karma get purified, Sean. I just want to bring this up, so anyone who worked hard, this is the best time your life, when so many eons of negative karma are purified. Negative karma has been collected since beginningless rebirth, but you have purified so many eons of negative karma by working very hard without without eating, without sleep, whatever; and you have collected merit, the highest merit.

Not only have you collected merits, but it is the highest merit—much more than making extensive offerings to numberless buddhas, numberless Dharma, numberless Sangha, then numberless statues, numberless stupas and numberless scriptures in the ten directions. Making extensive offerings to the numberless universes’, the ten directions’ buddhas, Dharma, Sangha, then statues, stupas, scriptures—this is nothing compared with this merit; especially this month, or for the five months you have been working to receive His Holiness here and for him to give teachings. For that, this is guru yoga practice, and you have collected so much merit. Wow, wow, wow, wow. It’s so unbelievable, unbelievable, you collect so much highest merit, so much. That’s incredible to rejoice, unbelievable to rejoice. This is the best life, the most meaningful life.

So Sakya Pandita mentioned ____[Tib]; there are five great Sakya lamas; the lineage that came through the five great Sakya lamas, and Sakya Pandita is one of them. So Sakya Pandita mentioned that even if you make charity of your head and your limbs to other sentient beings for one thousand eons, and even if you give up all the merits you receive from sacrificing the head and limbs so many times for other sentient beings; even if you give the merits you collected from that to sentient beings—you receive all that merit in just one second of guru yoga.

So now all the merit that you collect is unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. Even if you sacrificed your body, which is the most difficult charity done for sentient beings and buddhas; this charity is the most difficult. If you cut your limb and give it to sentient beings, it’s unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. How difficult it is even to give one finger to the sentient being, so there is unbelievable merit. Wow! It is so difficult; it is unbelievable.

When you do guru yoga, all that merit is created in one second [snaps fingers] of the guru’s path. So, when you do guru yoga, when you do service to the guru, at that time, all that charity for one thousand eons—which is so difficult to do at the beginning, but even if you do it for one thousand eons—you create that merit in one second of guru yoga. All that charity, all the merits—when you do guru yoga, service to the guru, you create that merit in one second [snaps fingers]. All this is included, you receive all these merits, you receive it all in one second when you offer service to the guru. Okay? Understand? So Sakya Pandita mentioned that you collect all that merit in one second [snaps fingers]; in one second.

So now, five months making preparation, can you imagine? How many seconds in five months? How many seconds in one day? Is it six thousand? [Student: 6,500.] Five hundred? [Student: 6,500.] Yeah, one day. Then in one hour, how much, how many? [Student: 3,600.] Three thousand, six hundred seconds in one hour. So in each second you collect [snaps fingers] that much merit. If you make charity of the limbs for one thousand eons, and then the merits received from that charity, that much merit you receive in every second [snaps fingers], in every second. So in one hour, how much? Three thousand six hundred, so you can imagine, you can imagine. Wow, wow, wow, wow. It’s really, really, really, really amazing, amazing. We have to realize, we have to discover this. It’s unbelievable to rejoice. Can you imagine? The more hardship you experienced, that is the greatest purification and the highest merit collected. So, therefore, please rejoice.

And this is due to the kindness—of course, no question what’s shown by His Holiness —but the great kindness of Geshe Tsulga and then also Geshe-la. So that’s what you discover; this is incredible, most amazing. It made you so much closer to enlightenment, generally —but these five months in particular, working so hard made you closer to enlightenment. That’s the reality to rejoice in. So rejoice, day and night, any time, even when death comes, even when you’ve got cancer, even when death comes, you can rejoice. And rejoice especially death comes, this is incredible to rejoice, so like that.

[Geshe-la speaks Tibetan to Rinpoche]

Rinpoche: He scolds. That’s the main thing, but you practiced patience well. That’s great. That’s the real practice.

It says in Practicing Guru Devotion with the Nine Attitudes, “No matter how difficult service to the guru is, be like a mountain, very solid. Be like the solid mountain. No matter how difficult it is to do the service for the guru, be like a mountain, not like a piece of paper or the leaves blown by the wind, not like that. It’s easy to change, easy to blow your mind, going wherever. Not like that.

So anyway, also in the Mahamudra, I don’t remember the quotation, _____ [Tib], that quotation anyway. Like a small fire or a candle flame—just as the fire burns the firewood, even a small fire or flame, matches or a candle flame, can burn a whole mountain. So, a small fire can burn the whole mountain. Like this, your negative karma collected for many eons gets burned, and the firewood becomes dust, completely. Service to the guru is like that; it purifies so many eons of negative karma. It really gets purified. I don’t remember the whole quotation. ____ [Tib] Like that, so many eons of negative karma get burned completely, in just one second. As mentioned in the chö kur tig le, in the Mahamudra, the drop, chö kur tig le, the guru yoga, service is so powerful.

Milarepa killed thirty people in his early life, and he killed so many animals through black magic, but after he met Marpa, he exactly practiced, without anger or heresy towards Marpa. He practiced correctly the advice given by Marpa, the teachings, and then he achieved enlightenment in that life. He began to practice tantra and he achieved enlightenment in that brief lifetime. He achieved enlightenment in a brief lifetime of degenerated time; so in a very short number of years, Milarepa became enlightened. That’s due to strong guru yoga practice.

Marpa left him to build a tower three times, the nine-story tower in Lhokha, which is on the southern side of Tibet. So Marpa let Milarepa build the nine-story tower. He built it up, then let him destroy it, putting the stones back where he brought them from before, and then again he built it up; again tore down and put back the stones. And again built it up. He was not allowed any other porters, he didn’t pay money for porters. So, he was such a strong disciple.

Such a perfectly qualified guru and a perfectly qualified disciple—when the two meet together, this is what happens. Then all those heavy negative karmas are purified, just like that. That’s like doing the preliminaries; it’s like doing many hundred thousand Vajrasattva mantras, mandala offerings and prostrations—it’s the same, but it’s much more than that. So this is what we did.

Normally we come to the center for the teachings and meditation, whatever. We are normally doing practice and studying, all the other things, at the center or the gompa, but particularly during all this time, for months, our work is like what Milarepa did by following his guru Marpa. Then he achieved enlightenment in that life. So please rejoice. So, thank you very, very much from my heart to Geshe-la and to all the students and everybody. I want to thank you very much, and Sean and Debra. Really, like this, there is so much unbelievable benefit.

And even if you were going to be reborn in the lower realms before, now you will have a good rebirth, by doing the normal practice, but also in particular doing the preparation for these last five months, all this. Many people have purified. Instead of going to the lower realms when death happens, now there will be a good rebirth. So it’s like this.

I just want to tell a story; it might be good to know the story, but I’ve got a very bad memory, so I don’t know.

Anyway, the direct disciple, Pandit Losang Dhargye Gyatso1 was giving the she lung, the oral transmission and some explanation of the Drang nge leg she nying po, The Heart of the Good Explanation of the Interpretive and Definitive Meaning, Lama Tsongkhapa’s very, very, very, very important teaching which presented the four schools: the Mind Only school, Cittamatra, and the rang gyur pa and thäl gyu pa, the Prasangika school’s view. This is a very, extremely important teaching by Pandit, (which means ‘great learned’) Losang Dhargye Gyatso, who was a direct disciple of Panchen Palden Yeshe, the sixth Panchen Rinpoche. There’s a whole lineage, which starts from Gyalwa Ensapa, who achieved enlightenment in one lifetime, not only this life…

Milarepa went through so much hardship, but as His Holiness Zong Rinpoche advised in many teachings, Gyalwa Ensapa received enlightenment by eating comfortable food, having comfortable bedding and a comfortable life, then he achieved enlightenment in one brief lifetime. Why did Rinpoche say that? Because of the quality of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings; he experienced that. So starting with Gyalwa Ensapa, there are many Panchen Lamas who are the incarnation of him, so this one is Panchen Palden Yeshe, the sixth Panchen Lama. Losang Dhargye Gyatso was a disciple of this lama. When he was giving the she lung, the oral transmission of the Drang nge leg she nying po, The Heart of the Good Explanation of the Interpretive and Definitive Meaning, he explained this.

I’m just telling a story, but we have to know in our heart the benefits of practicing guru yoga. We have to keep the benefits of guru yoga in our heart, then we can see how important guru yoga practice is. We can get the general idea from that.

There is a story, in the past, about Gyalwa Kelsang Gyatso, the omniscient Seventh Dalai Lama. There was a geshe who was like a friend, somebody he liked, as well as being, of course, a disciple. So usually the Dalai Lama was very happy with this geshe. Then one time the geshe went to see the Seventh Dalai Lama, and asked, “Where I will be reborn?” He asked for this prediction and the Dalai Lama said, “Right after you die, you will be born as an ox with blue horns. You’ll be born as an ox having blue horns.” So then the geshe laughed and laughed and laughed. Then Gyalwa Kelsang Gyatso, the victorious omniscient one, the Seventh Dalai Lama, asked, “Why are you laughing?” The geshe explained, “Oh, we are debating the characteristics, we’re analyzing and debating, so we’re following the path of logic.”

When he said, “We are following the logic,” this means he didn’t believe what the Dalai Lama said. The geshe said, “To be able to be born in the next life as an ox, first you have to go through the intermediate stage, then you have to meet the father.” Ox is male, right? Do you know? [Student: Yes.]

OK, because in the West, people say ‘yak cheese’, but yak is male, so a yak doesn’t produce cheese! So the female is dri; it’s similar to the yak, but it’s called a dri. In Solu Khumbu we have dri, and they produce cheese and milk. But yak is male, so there’s no yak cheese. Otherwise there would be men producing milk; there would be human male milk, like that.

So the geshe said, “Then you have to meet the ox, and the male ox has to meet the female cow. Then the consciousness has to enter inside the womb; then flesh has to develop, the body has to grow hair and the horns have to grow. It needs all this. So, after my consciousness transfers from here, there is no time to do all this and immediately be born as an ox with blue horns. How do I quickly become that? How? I laughed at what you said. What you told me, I laughed.” That’s what the geshe said.

After the geshe laughed, the Seventh Dalai Lama said, “Without any time for all this, just immediately you will become a blue ox.” So the geshe laughed and laughed and laughed, and he said, “I laugh at this.”

Then Kelsang Gyatso, the Seventh Dalai Lama, laughed and laughed and laughed, and he told the geshe, “Oh, now you will be born as a gelong, and you will be born as my entourage.” The Seventh Dalai Lama even said “entourage.” Can you imagine? So the Seventh Dalai Lama said that. Then the geshe realized what he said. The reasoning path, the logical path, the conceptual, reasoning path didn’t fit with what the Dalai Lama said. Now suddenly, before becoming an ox, he would become a gelong, a bhikshu and in the Dalai Lama’s entourage.

“It doesn’t fit to our mind,” the geshe said. “The conceptual, the reasoning path, doesn’t fit to our mind. And I’m worried about what you said just now. Before I was becoming that ox, but now I will be a gelong.”

So the geshe said, “How is it possible to be born a gelong, a bhikshu? I didn’t do any confession and I didn’t collect any merit. How can that be; how can I suddenly become a gelong? How is it possible? I was going to be an ox!”

“Oh,” the Seventh Dalai Lama said, because the way the geshe said that made His Holiness laugh and laugh and laugh. So then that purified the geshe’s negative karma to be born as an ox. Right at that time, that made His Holiness very happy, so he just laughed and laughed. Just that—just during that minute, just during that second, he purified the negative karma to be born as an ox. So that’s why I’m telling you this story about His Holiness the Seventh Dalai Lama. The geshe had the karma to be born as a human being, as a monk in the entourage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

That’s what I was telling you before, particularly during these months when you worked so hard [to bring His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama to Kurukulla Center]. You have to realize that so much unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable negative karma is purified, so this can change your rebirth. If you were going to a lower realm, to a no-good rebirth, as I was saying, that can change. So this quotation is proof, so, like that.

Just being able to make His Holiness laugh and laugh, that is collecting the most amazing merit. The geshe said, “I didn’t purify, I didn’t collect merit. How will I become a monk?” He complained to His Holiness. So just by making His Holiness happy, just at that minute [snaps fingers], that’s the merit, that’s the unbelievable merit he collected, so then he would become a monk. The reason is that.

So then His Holiness explained, “For the two of us, you and me, I am the special object. I am the special object and I’m blessed by Chenrezig, the Arya Compassion Buddha, I’m blessed by the Arya Compassionate Eye Looking One.” The geshe made him laugh; he played. The way the geshe expressed himself made His Holiness laugh, so by that, his karma to be born as an ox was purified, just within those seconds it was purified [snaps fingers]. By making His Holiness laugh, he collected unbelievable, most unbelievable merit, so that became the karma to be born as a monk in those seconds. So it made auspicious dependent arising. So, I thought just to mention that. So that’s the reality; the reality is like this. So it’s great, great, great.

Really, this hardship’s nothing, and the benefit that we get is like the sky. The benefits that we’ve got are like the sky, Sean. I heard a lot of stories about Sean from Wendy, lot of stories. [Laughter]

So anyway, even though Geshe Tsulga passed away, it’s like Shakyamuni Buddha, who had no suffering of death, rebirth , old age and sickness, because he had no delusions; he had no delusion and no karma motivated or produced by delusion. He didn’t have this. So therefore, it’s similar to that. Now, just like that, for us to realize how Geshe-la’s teachings are so precious, the Buddha did that so sentient beings could realize how his teachings are so precious, and also for sentient beings to realize impermanence and death. So, it’s like that.

So then Geshe-la [Geshe Ngawang Tenley] carried on what Geshe Tsulga was teaching and is taking responsibility, so for all that, thank you. So then, the center member, Debra, thank you for bearing so many hardships. Thank you very, very much, and thanks to all the numberless centers and to anybody who helped this center, Kurukulla Center.

The world is suffering so much globally—in the countries and in the family, in society and individually—there is so much suffering, you understand? Therefore, now the center becomes very, very, very important. The more we see this suffering, the center becomes more and more important. Each center becomes more and more important; existing centers become more and more important.

What the center offers is to reveal the whole path to enlightenment. It doesn’t just purify the cause of the lower realms so we have a good rebirth; it’s not just for that. The center is not just to free us from the oceans of samsaric suffering, to be liberated forever from the oceans of samsaric suffering; it’s not just for that. It’s for us to achieve full enlightenment, to achieve the complete cessation of the mistakes of mind—gross and subtle obscurations—and to achieve complete realization, to achieve enlightenment for the sentient beings; it’s for that. So, it’s for the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, suras and asuras—it’s for the benefit of sentient beings, for the happiness of sentient beings, and to bring everyone to full enlightenment, the peerless happiness, all that.

So the center reveals the teachings of the Buddha—the Hinayana, Paramitayana, Tantrayana, and the essence of that, lam-rim; then the essence of that, the Three Principal Aspects of the Path to Enlightenment. So the centre, Kurukulla Center, educates us in how to practice, how to purify the mind and collect merit, so we can have the realization of the whole path to enlightenment. So the center is for this. In short, it’s for developing compassion for all living beings and for receiving wisdom; it’s for the path to enlightenment. What else is there in the world to do that’s more important than this? What else is there in the world that’s more important than this, to help others? To help yourself and to help others; what else is more important? There’s nothing more important than what you do here. Really, the more problems we see in the world, then we see the existence of the center as more important.

I want to thank Sean, who is now going to take the guru yoga service. Sean is going to take the responsibility of being director; he is going to be director of the Kurukulla Center. So, after how many days?

Student: About eight or nine days.

Rinpoche: Yeah, so I thank you very much from my heart on behalf of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, and I thank you on behalf of His Holiness and on behalf of Lama Yeshe.

I thank Geshe-la and Debra. How many years as director? Two, so very many hardships, so thanks. [Students applaud] Where’s Geshe-la? Where’s Geshe-la? Envelope. [Students applaud] I told you before, the envelope. Thank you very much, thank you so much. [Students applaud]. Maybe there’s one khatag, one more khatag? [Students applaud].

[Aside: There are fifty…]

Before I give you the blessing strings, I have chanted different mantras, especially the Chenrezig mantra, so many times, and I have blessed them with different mantras, and then made prayers to Chenrezig, Hayagriva and also to the other deities. These are not just rough things, so please respect them, don’t put them on the floor and things like that. So respect them. They are mainly to purify the mind and also to wear for protection. So, the most important protection is, by wearing this blessing string you remember bodhicitta, and that protects you from the outer and inner harms.

[Rinpoche talking aside to someone.]

[Geshe-la thanks Rinpoche; dedicating to His Holiness’s and Rinpoche’s long life, and requesting him to return to Kurukulla Center. He also thanks the students and apologizes for making a lot of changes.]

[Sean gives individual thanks to students and acknowledges of their work.]


1 Read Losang Dhargye Gyatso's biography in the Treasury of Lives. [Return to text]