A Talk at Cittamani Hospice Service

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Palmwoods, Queensland, Australia (Archive #1179)

This talk was given by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche to workers at Cittamani Hospice Service, Queensland, Australia, on April 19, 2000. Edited by Ven. Ailsa Cameron.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Taos, New Mexico, 1999. Photo by Lenny Foster.

Alex Moore (Director): A lot of people ask us about what “Cittamani” means, and we’re never quite sure what to tell them, so we thought that now Rinpoche is here, rather than make it up, we would ask him to say a little bit about the meaning of “Cittamani” and the work that we’re doing.

Rinpoche: I would like to say that I am very happy that you have been able to actualize Cittamani Hospice and to benefit sentient beings through all your good heart and all your dedication—and through the generosity of Don and his family in allowing Cittamani Hospice to use this space. Cittamani Hospice has been able to happen and to benefit sentient beings because of everybody’s good heart and dedication.

There is actually a reason that we need to help others. If a blind person is in danger of falling down a cliff because they cannot see and you have eyes to see that person’s life is in danger and arms to hold them, it doesn’t matter if that person doesn’t ask you to help them. Your help does not depend on their asking you for it. Just having the capacity to help is itself enough reason for us to run to that person and grab them before they fall down the cliff.

We have the same need to help other sentient beings—and it doesn’t depend on their personally asking for our help. We should help them simply because we have the capacity, or potential, to help them now. And even if we don’t have the capacity to help them now, we can develop it by increasing our compassion and wisdom so that we can benefit others more and more deeply. The more compassion and wisdom we are able to develop, the more power we will have to liberate others from all suffering and its cause, which is within them, on their mental continuum. The cause of their suffering is their karma and delusions, their mistaken ways of thinking, and the negative imprints left by them on their mental continuum. We have every opportunity to develop our capacity, our compassion and wisdom, and be able to help others. Because we have the opportunity, we should help others. The basic reason that we need to help others is simply that others are suffering and need our help and we have opportunity to help them now and to further develop our potential to help others.

This is the reason that I normally give as to why we need to help others. It is a clean-clear pure reason: it is simply that a sentient being is suffering and needs our help. Of course, you incidentally get a lot of benefit from helping others. You get skies of benefit when you help others sincerely from your heart, by knowing that the meaning of your being born as a human being at this time is to serve others. The purpose of your life is to serve others. When we serve others with this knowledge and with compassion, our everyday life brings us so much peace, happiness, and satisfaction. Our inner life is then full rather than empty.

In this world there are billionaires and other wealthy people whose attitude to life is not one of serving others but of using others for their own happiness. Their main aim is to make themselves happy and to avoid problems for themselves, but rather than searching for satisfaction from within their own mind, they look to achieve satisfaction from outside themselves. Even though they might be very comfortable externally, their inner life is miserable and filled with dissatisfaction. Their inner life is sad and empty.

There needs to be a total change of mind by thinking, “The purpose of my life is to serve others. Why have I been born a human being, with this rare and precious human body? I have received it to serve others, to free others from all their suffering and to bring them all happiness: the happiness of this life and of future lives and the ultimate happiness that is free from all suffering and all causes of suffering (karma and delusions, or negative emotional thoughts), especially the highest happiness of enlightenment. To bring them all this happiness is the purpose of my life.”

Serving others with a sincere heart brings us so much peace and satisfaction every day. When we do the work sincerely, it gives us so much peace, happiness and fulfillment. We feel happy, and we see our life as meaningful. It fills our life with happiness and satisfaction now and also ensures that we have the best future.

By serving others with a sincere heart, we have the best future. Helping to look after people who are sick and dying is itself the best preparation for our own death. By taking care of others—whether one or many—we collect so much merit and purify so much negative karma, and this means our death will come easily and without fear. Fear of death doesn’t come from outside, but from within our own mind, because of our delusions and negative karma. Fear is the result of attachment and other negative emotional thoughts and of the negative karma collected in the past. By serving others with a sincere mind in our everyday life, we purify so much of those negative karmas and develop a good heart.

Creating so much merit is also the best preparation for our own death. It will ensure that we have a peaceful, happy death, with no anxiety or frightening karmic appearances. We will also be able to die with a good heart. Our consciousness will then have a good journey to the next life, so this will result in a good rebirth. This is the reason that I say it ensures the best future. Dying with compassion for others, without any worry or fear, is the best death, and we then have a good rebirth. Like changing our clothes, we leave this old body and take a new one in a pure land of Buddha or take a perfect human body.

As far as the karmic results of the work we are doing, serving sick and dying people, there are eight ripening aspect results. It becomes a cause of long life, in this life and in future lives. In all the coming future lives when we are born as a human being, we will have a long life. And because we are making charity to others, it also becomes a cause of wealth, in this life and especially in all the coming future lives. Because karma is expandable, we can experience the result of one good karma many times in one life and in many lifetimes—in hundreds or even thousands of lifetimes. So, the one good karma of serving others, making charity, can result in wealth in hundreds or thousands of lifetimes. If we are humble and respectful of those whom we serve, we will be respected by others or achieve power in this life or in future lives. In our future lives, by having power we can then help millions of people; we can bring so much peace and happiness to millions of sentient beings. This has happened in the world—take His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for example. His Holiness brings peace and joy to everybody who sees him. Seeing His Holiness even once is an unforgettable experience. Just seeing his smile or hearing his voice brings so much peace. By having such power, you can benefit millions of people.

You will also have a perfect body, wisdom, and be born in a high caste. This is referring to countries in the East. Caste isn’t talked about here in the West. In many countries in the East, if you wish to benefit others, you need to be born in a high caste so that everyone respects you. You can then benefit so many sentient beings.

Here you are also performing a difficult service that many other people cannot perform. By taking upon yourself the responsibility to do such difficult things, you create the cause to have a powerful body and mind in your future lives. This was the case with the great Tibetan yogi Milarepa. Milarepa was only one of countless meditators who became enlightened in one brief lifetime of this degenerate time, but Milarepa is the yogi who is best known in the West. Somehow, perhaps owing to his bodhicitta, Milarepa’s name became very famous, even though many other Tibetan lamas and meditators also achieved enlightenment in one lifetime.

Milarepa had nothing—not even one dollar. But his mind and his body were very powerful. He lived in the mountains, where he meditated and achieved enlightenment. He was able to bear hardships, and he was then able to conquer all his ignorance, anger, attachment and other delusions and to cease even their negative imprints. He was able to achieve full enlightenment. Because he had a powerful body and mind, Milarepa could achieve enlightenment very quickly by bearing hardships in practicing the path. In a similar way, by doing things in this life that are difficult for other people to do, by offering this service, you will achieve a very powerful body and mind in future lives so that you will be able to complete the realizations and achieve enlightenment. In your future lives you will again be able to bring incredible skies of benefit to other sentient beings.

I don’t remember all the eight ripening aspect results, but in any case they are explained very clearly in the lamrim texts.

What we are doing creates so many causes to achieve a powerful perfect human body with the eight ripening qualities. Lama Tsongkhapa explained that it is by having such a body that you can really achieve realizations of the path to enlightenment. Since what you are doing here is creating so many causes for such a body, it is something to rejoice about. There is incredible benefit to you now, at the time of your death, and in all your future lives up to enlightenment. After that you will be able to liberate numberless other beings from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to enlightenment. All the service that you are doing has all these benefits. Its ultimate benefit is that after you achieve enlightenment you will be able to liberate numberless sentient beings from all their suffering and bring them to enlightenment. Even without any expectation of receiving benefits by serving others, you will naturally achieve all these results.

I would like to mention the story of the pandit Asanga. Those of you who have heard Dharma teachings will know this story very well. Asanga did retreat in a hermitage for twelve years trying to achieve Maitreya Buddha. After some years of retreat, when he didn’t see Maitreya Buddha, he left the hermitage. As he came down the road he saw a bird flying into its nest inside a hole in a rock. Asanga saw that the rock had been worn down by the wings of the bird touching it as it went in and out. Even though the bird’s feathers were very soft and the rock was very hard, it was still able to wear down the rock. This inspired him, and he thought, “If even feathers can wear down a rock, why can’t I see Maitreya Buddha?” So he went back to the hermitage for another three years of retreat, but he still didn’t see Maitreya Buddha.

When he left his retreat again and was coming down the road, he saw somebody cutting a rock with a thread. Asanga saw that the rock was bring worn through by the movement of the thread. This inspired him, and he thought, “If even a thread can wear through a rock, why can’t I achieve Maitreya Buddha?” So he returned to the hermitage and did another three years of retreat. Again he didn’t see Maitreya Buddha.

He left the hermitage again, and along the way he saw that water dripping onto a rock had made a hole in it. Water is soft and rock is hard, but by dropping continuously the water had made a hole. This inspired Asanga, and he thought, “If even drops of water can make a hole, why can’t I achieve Maitreya Buddha?” He then went back and again spent another three years in retreat.

After twelve years of retreat, he still hadn’t seen Maitreya Buddha. He then decided to definitely leave. When he came down from the hermitage, he saw a wounded dog in the road. The dog’s lower body was an open wound filled with maggots. Asanga felt unbearable compassion for the dog. He cut some flesh from his calf and spread it out on the ground. He then closed his eyes and went to pick up the maggots from the infected wound with the tip of his tongue. But he found that he could not touch the maggots. When he opened his eye, he saw Maitreya Buddha, not a dog.

It was Maitreya Buddha all along. There was no wounded dog and no maggots. Before Asanga generated unbearable compassion for the dog and sacrificed himself, thus purifying his mind, he saw just a dog. When his mind was impure and obscured by karmic obscurations, instead of seeing Maitreya Buddha he simply saw a wounded dog crawling with maggots. By generating unbelievable compassion and sacrificing himself to serve that living being, Asanga purified all the defilements that blocked his seeing Maitreya Buddha. His impure karma had projected a pitiful wounded dog covered with maggots. Asanga completely purified all these defilements, and when this impure karma had been purified, he could then see Maitreya Buddha.

Asanga immediately grabbed onto Maitreya Buddha and said, “I have been meditating for a long time, why didn’t I see you earlier?” Maitreya Buddha replied, “I was there in the hermitage, but you didn’t see me.” Maitreya Buddha then showed Asanga the marks on his robes from Asanga’s spit. Asanga used to spit in his cave, and the spit went on Maitreya Buddha’s robes. Maitreya Buddha showed Asanga the marks to prove that he was always in the hermitage—it was just that Asanga didn’t see him.

Maitreya Buddha then asked Asanga, “What do you want?” Asanga asked Maitreya to give teachings. Maitreya Buddha then took him to the pure land of Tushita, where in one morning, which is equivalent to fifty human years, Maitreya taught Abhisamayalamkara, which explains the whole path to enlightenment and the eighth chapter of which talks in detail about the four kayas, or Buddha’s holy body and mind. This text is studied for many years in Sera, Ganden, and Drepung, the largest monasteries in Lhasa and now India, and in the branches of those monasteries. All five divisions of Maitreya Buddha’s teachings are studied for many years. Asanga brought these teachings down to the human world and wrote them down.

On the basis of these teachings Lama Atisha wrote Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment and Lama Tsongkhapa then wrote an extensive commentary. Many other enlightened lamas also wrote commentaries. Countless meditators in Tibet actualized the path and became enlightened by studying these teachings and their essence, the lamrim. And these days these great teachings have even spread to the Western world, where every year tens of thousands of people are able to make their lives meaningful by following the path to enlightenment. All this came from the teachings that Maitreya Buddha gave to Asanga. Those teachings are the basis. All these things happened because Asanga generated intense compassion and was willing to sacrifice himself for one living being, a wounded dog.

With all these teachings, so many beings inside and outside of Tibet have been able to make their lives beneficial, and many beings have been able to achieve enlightenment. And now we are also taught these teachings, which make our life meaningful. It all came from Asanga’s great compassion, his bodhicitta, in sacrificing himself to help what he saw as a wounded dog. It came from one person offering service to one sentient being, from one person generating compassion for a wounded dog. So, the benefits are unbelievable. All these benefits that we receive came from Asanga’s compassion. During his twelve years of retreat nothing happened; it was only after he sacrificed himself to take care of a wounded dog that he was able to see Maitreya Buddha. That is the point I wanted to make.

Now, it is the same here with what you are doing. Serving other sentient beings with a sincere heart, with compassion, brings powerful purification, purifying many lifetimes of negative karma. All the heavy negative karmas are purified. The more we generate compassion, the more we sacrifice ourselves, the more we purify our past negative karma and the more we collect inconceivable merit, or good karma, the cause of all happiness up to enlightenment. That is the benefit we get, and through helping one person, we are able to liberate and enlighten all sentient beings. This is what we can offer to all living beings.

So, I want to thank you all very much for all your dedication in voluntarily taking upon yourself this responsibility for serving others, and I want to ask you to please continue.

It is good to do the following prayer every day, in the morning and especially at the end of the day to dedicate all the merit that you have collected by serving others, meditating, or in other ways.

Due to all the past, present, and future merits collected by me and the merits of the three time merits collected by all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other sentient beings, may any sentient being just by seeing me, touching me, talking about me, remembering me, or dreaming about me never ever be reborn in the lower realms from that time. May they immediately be liberated from all disease, spirit harm, negative karma, and defilements.

“Talking about me” can refer to praise or criticism—even someone making fun of you. “Seeing me” can include seeing your photo. We pray that any connection with us prevents that being’s rebirth in the lower realms —the hell, hungry ghost, or animal realm.

Also make the following strong prayer:

May anyone who sees me, touches me, talks about me, or remembers me immediately be cured of cancer, AIDS, coma, arthritis, migraine, and other heavy diseases. May those possessed by spirits be immediately released from the harm of those spirits. May anyone who is dying immediately stop experiencing terrifying emotions and karmic appearances and feel incredible bliss in their heart. May they then be born in a pure land of Buddha, where there is no suffering of rebirth, old age, sickness, or emotional problems. Totally free from all suffering and its causes, may they become enlightened there.

Dedicate the merit in this way in the morning after your meditation practice and especially at the end of the day, when you dedicate the merit from whatever good actions you have done that day. If we generate such a thought to benefit others every day, we become meaningful to behold. This means that everything about us becomes healing: hearing our voice, seeing us, touching us, remembering us. We become meaningful for others, purifying their mind of negative karma. Everything helps to liberate other sentient beings, and especially to bring them to enlightenment.

We should pray and dedicate in this way every day. The sutra teachings mention that “all dharmas exist in dependence upon the wish.” (The term dharmas simply means phenomena.) Whether harmful or beneficial, phenomena are actualized from our intention, our wish. All happiness comes from our wish, from our positive intention. Enlightenment, total liberation from samsara, is a creation of mind; it comes from our wish. All phenomena exist in dependence upon the wish.

Dedicating like this every day gradually creates the power to actually be able to benefit other sentient beings in that way, to become more and more meaningful for other sentient beings. I would suggest that you pray like this every day. After some time, even your photo will benefit others. Others will gain peace just from seeing your photo; and by praying to you or seeing or keeping your photo, they will be released from spirit harms and other harms and their wishes for happiness will be fulfilled. This can happen from the power of your mind in generating such a wish, in praying in this way. That is the benefit of prayer. Prayer can grant wishes due to the power of mind.

Negative prayers to harm others can also be actualized. Wrong prayers can harm many people and even destroy the world. For example, in India Moslems attacked Buddhism, destroying temples, statues and so forth, three times. A similar thing also happened in Indonesia. There is no story of Buddhists destroying Moslem mosques, but it has happened many times that Moslems have destroyed Buddhist temples.

Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, a guru from whom I have received many initiations, is a great yogi and scholar with limitless skies of qualities and realizations yet is extremely humble with respect for everybody, rich or poor, young or old. Rinpoche explained that the destruction of the temples and monasteries came about in the following way. A long time ago in a Buddhist monastery there was a monk who was naughty and didn’t follow the monastic rules. The disciplinary monk scolded him very heavily, and possibly beat him. The monk who was disciplined got very angry and said many negative prayers wishing to destroy monasteries. Rinpoche explained that the problem started from there. Later, I think perhaps in his next life, he destroyed many, many monasteries.

So, making wrong prayers with a negative mind also has a negative effect; it can harm other sentient beings. Therefore, because it has so much effect, prayer is very important.

So, as to the meaning of Cittamani Tara. In the mantra OM MANI PADME HUNG, MANI is method and PADME is wisdom. It is similar here: CITTA is wisdom and MANI is method. It’s CITTA-MANI not CITTA-MONEY, though perhaps it can become CITTA-MONEY. CITTAMANI, wisdom and method, includes the whole path to enlightenment. It includes the Lesser Vehicle path to achieve liberation from samsara for oneself. The whole Lesser Vehicle path comes in method (renunciation, the Thirty-seven Dharmas of Enlightenment, and the other realizations) and wisdom (the wisdom that realizes emptiness). The whole of the Lesser Vehicle path of method and wisdom to achieve self-liberation comes in CITTAMANI. The whole of the Mahayana Paramitayana path of method (bodhicitta, the six perfections and so forth) and wisdom (the wisdom that directly perceives emptiness) also come in CITTAMANI. The whole of the Mahayana tantric path of method (the illusory body) and wisdom (the extremely subtle wisdom of clear light) are also contained in CITTAMANI. It is these two powerful completion stage realizations, the illusory body and clear light, that make it possible to achieve enlightenment, the unification of no more learning, in this life—even within a few years.

The ultimate meaning of CITTAMANI is the inseparability of method and wisdom; this is the dharmakaya, the absolute guru, the transcendental wisdom of nondual method and emptiness. Those who are familiar with the practices of Highest Yoga Tantra will understand what I am saying. The dharmakaya, the ultimate meaning of CITTAMANI, is bound with infinite compassion to us sentient beings; therefore, it manifests in the female deity, Tara. This dharmakaya, the ultimate Tara, manifested in the interpretive Tara, the green female deity, to liberate us sentient beings from the lower realms, from the whole suffering of samsara and its causes, and also to save sentient beings from the lower nirvana and bring them to enlightenment. So, that’s why there is Cittamani Tara.

Does this make some sense to you? The last part might not be clear, because I didn’t use the precise terms, but I think those who practice tantra can work it out. The ultimate meaning of CITTAMANI is the dharmakaya, the absolute guru, and that is the ultimate Tara, which then manifests in the interpretive Tara—so, Cittamani Tara.

Maybe Geshe-la would like to say something?

Geshe Tashi Tsering: I don’t like to speak because I don’t know English very well. But I would like to say thank you very much to everybody for helping other people. The Buddhist teachings say that the best job in this life is to help other sentient beings. Buddha said the worst thing is to harm other sentient beings, so its opposite, helping other sentient beings, must be the best, mustn’t it? This is logical.

Everybody here is doing the best job, so thank you very much.