Putting Effort into Dharma Practice

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1257)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche advised students to put effort into Dharma practice at the 33rd Kopan Course held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 2000.

This teaching is an edited excerpt from Lecture Ten of the course. Click here to read more.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching at Chenrezig Institute, Queensland, Australia 1975.

Coming here for this one-month meditation course is good. I am not sure whether we will get another chance like this. We can’t really say whether there will be another chance in our life like this, so definitely having this chance now is so good, and therefore it is good to follow the schedule, to do everything and try to be here for the entire program–the meditations and talks.

People put a lot of effort into climbing Mount Everest, but it means nothing. They spend millions of dollars climbing Mount Everest just to get a reputation, just to get some dry name. They put so many hundreds of thousands of dollars into a project which is totally meaningless. People spend so much money and effort and for their whole life they put effort into things which are totally meaningless and they only create negative karma, because their motivation is just attachment. It means nothing, and they totally waste all their money and their life, because they put so much effort for so many years into nothing.

There are so many people in the world who have received a precious human body but are totally wasting it by doing meaningless actions. So, it is very important, while we are here, to follow the path to enlightenment. Even if we die while doing prostrations to the Buddha, we are still practicing Dharma, so if we die it is worthwhile. So far, we have died countless times–we died creating negative karma while doing meaningless work so many times. If we die while practicing Dharma, by doing things like nyung-näs–the two-day intensive retreat of the Compassion Buddha–it is worthwhile. The nyung-nä retreat is very powerful purification and we collect unbelievable merit. Until we reach the level of the path where we overcome death and we never have to experience death again, we will have to die anyway, so even if we die while practicing Dharma, we die for sentient beings rather than dying for ourselves. We die to spread Dharma, to liberate sentient beings and bring them to enlightenment. If we die through practicing Dharma, that is extremely worthwhile, because we have to die anyway. If we die bearing hardships to meditate on the lam-rim, that is an extremely worthwhile way to die. Even if it causes danger to our life it is very worthwhile.

Therefore, it is very important to try hard for this one-month course. It doesn’t matter whether we believe it or not, we just have to learn it. If we learn, if we have the understanding, then we can analyze. That’s my point. Therefore, we should listen to the teachings. Last night or the night before, I was talking about karma, and I think there were many men and a few women talking in the dining room. When I went there after teachings, I saw many men, but I didn’t see many women there. I think the teaching on karma is very important, because it changes the mind and it changes our actions. Even with this one chance we have here, if we waste our life hanging around outside instead of attending the teachings, when are we going to change our life? When are we going to change our mind? When are we going to have real spiritual progress and develop our mind on the path to enlightenment?

At the moment we don’t understand how precious our life is. It takes time to realize, to discover, and it needs a lot of merit. There is a lot of logical proof for somebody who understands reincarnation, but for some people that alone is not enough. From our side, we need to purify the mind. If we don’t purify the mind it’s like a mirror covered by dust– like dirt on a cloth or like a beautiful painting on the wall covered by so much dust that we can’t see it. We need to clean it. No matter how sharp the logic is to prove things, for some people that is not enough. From our side, we need to purify the defilements. If there is no purification, no matter how sharp the logic is, it won’t affect our mind. So, we need to practice purification, and then we can get inside things to make the real discoveries, and things can happen. We can see beyond, otherwise we will be blocked, like wearing dark glasses that we can’t see out of.

Here is some general advice for life after the course. For those of you who want to continue meditation in everyday life after finishing the course, usually the question is what to do, now you are going back to the West. My advice is that it is extremely important to continue. The main practice is to study and meditate on the lam-rim—that is the main goal of life.

Generally, in the text, after we have found a spiritual master, a guru, the first step is to correctly devote ourselves to the virtuous friend with thought and actions. On the basis of that, we study and meditate on the lam-rim until we have realizations of the lam-rim, the three principal aspects of the path, and then after that, the two stages of Vajrayana. That is the main goal in life and it is the best way, the deepest and most profound way to serve other sentient beings.

There are many ways to do social service, by giving food and clothing and so forth, this and that, but the deepest way is to train in the path, so that we can liberate others from the suffering of samsara and bring them to enlightenment. Based on the practice of the good heart, we determine not to harm other sentient beings, and on top of that, to benefit them. On the basis of that, we must study and meditate, especially on the lam-rim. To make the realization of lam-rim successful—the listening, reflecting and meditating—to be able to complete that depends on collecting much merit, purifying the obstacles and receiving the blessings of the guru in our own heart. That depends on the practice of guru devotion, guru yoga. So, therefore we need to do these other practices.

This is not possible just by reading texts and meditating on what we can do for others, because for a seed to grow and produce a plant and food, we need water and soil—we need many things. In the same way, to develop the realization in the mind up to enlightenment, we need all these conditions. To receive the blessings of the guru in our heart, like water, we need to do guru yoga–guru devotion practices–we need to do purification practices and collect merit. We need those things, from refuge, bodhicitta, the six preparatory practices, including the seven-limb prayer, also mandala offerings, requesting–we need all those things.