A Talk on Guru Devotion (Audio and Unedited Transcripts)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
ACI, New York, 1999 (Archive #1076)

A talk given by Kyabje Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche during a three-day series of teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New York, in August 1999.

Click on the audio link above to listen online to a recording of this talk and read along with the unedited transcripts, provided here as a companion to the audio.

The edited version of this talk is also available online, as Chapter One of the book Making Life Meaningful

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Manjushri Institute, England, 1976.
The Importance of Compassion in Daily Life

[Lama Zopa Rinpoche chanting in Tibetan.]

So I would like to say hello and good evening. As you remember, donkeys…so, I’m also one of the donkeys! Us Western people are donkeys—is that right? Before? So I’m also one of the donkeys! Old donkey!

Of course, Buddha of Compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama exceptional, in the Lama Tsongkhapa tradition, one who did uncomparable activities to illuminated so many hundred thousand people’s mind, illuminated, brought light in their mind, in their life, is by Lama Yeshe, whose holy name is difficult to express, who’s kinder than, kinder to me than all the three time buddhas. So is not me, but it is Lama Yeshe; one who did great, brought so much light, meaning, into many hundred thousand people, Western people’s life, brought peace, meaning, answer in the life.

So tonight, so I’m going to try to mumble little bit, I’m going to try to mumble a little bit. So maybe you understand, maybe not; not sure. So please have patience—my mumbling is not sure.

So as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Buddha of Compassion, mentioned these few days, which is the most precious, most, which is unbelievable fortunate time for us who are able to attend, able to see Buddha of Compassion in human form, that we can communicate, that we have the karma to see and able to communicate, and not only that, able to receive path that which liberates, that which without doubt, path which, without any question, without any doubt, liberates us from the oceans of sufferings of the samsara, including the cause, karma—the action, that which is motivated by delusion—and the delusion, the disturbing thought, the disturbing obscuring thought, that which continuation did not have beginning. Even by, whether we are able to practice every single thing that is taught these days, but just by hearing, just by listening the teaching, just by leaving the positive imprint on our mental continuum, that which definitely, the positive imprint, definitely, sooner or later liberates us from this oceans of the samsaric suffering and the cause, and that which definitely bring us to full enlightenment, the peerless happiness.

So as His Holiness talked about compassion these few days, so what is the purpose of our life, our living? Why we put so much effort to survive every day, every hour, every minute, second? Why we make so much expenses to take care this body, to check every year whether there’s sicknesses or not, and then all the expenses to have treatment if there’s sicknesses? So much expenses food and clothing, shelter, so many things to survive, to be healthy. And we do many billions of exercise, many, many exercise, many billions of exercise to make the body healthy. However, so, if there’s compassion within us, it gives meaning, if you have compassion within us, it gives meaning to the whole effort. If you have compassion for others, then that gives meaning to everything, all the expenses that we do, all the hard works that we do, including studying, doing job, many hours of job—it gives meaning to everything.

If there’s no compassion in the heart towards others, then life is empty. All those expenses, all those effort, many hours doing jobs, has not much meaning; empty. There’s no fulfillment, even our everyday life; in our heart, there’s no fulfillment without compassion, without thought of benefiting others; very difficult to find satisfaction; always our heart is empty, hollow inside, no matter how much externally we have, but the heart…no matter how much externally, we have things, however, how much we try outside, but the heart, how much we try in this world, try to achieve, but our heart is constantly empty; something missing, all the time. There’s no real peace in the heart. If you think, if you examine the very inside the heart, there’s something missing all the time.

So however, having compassion within one’s own mind, able to make the life beneficial for others, so that’s the real meaning of our life. That’s the best way of achieving peace and happiness, fulfillment; best way to achieve satisfaction in the life; now, happiness day to day, moment to moment life to have peace and happiness. Not only that, it has very good, it has the best future—having compassion to others, living life for others, has the best future, best future, best…even the most critical day, the end of life, what is called death, the most critical time, the death, separating the consciousness from this body, the day when even that happens, you have the best death, you have the most happy, peaceful, most satisfying death, and you make…you’re most peaceful way of dying, most happy death, makes others also happy, that time—family members, other people, to rejoice. It makes them to rejoice. You become the example, inspiration, courage, hope for them. It’s also what they can do. You see you become example for them, inspiration for their life.

So however, then, even, if there’s no compassion, even if you have wisdom directly perceiving the very nature of the phenomena, ultimate nature of the I, mind, those phenomenas, even you have such wisdom, what His Holiness has been talking—wisdom, ultimate wisdom, wisdom realizing, directly perceiving, not “realizing emptiness” but directly perceiving emptiness, even if you have that, but without good heart, compassion, highest what you can achieve is just the nirvana of the lesser vehicle path, the lower nirvana…not…the non-abiding nirvana, the sorrowless state, not the full enlightenment. The nirvana, the sorrowless state of the lesser vehicle path. The highest what you can achieve without compassion to others, even you have wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, so this all what you achieve—the lower nirvana or the sorrowless state for oneself.

Still there’s hallucination, dual view; still there’s negative imprint, subtle negative imprint, on the mental continuum that interfere for your mental continuum to be able to directly see all the existence, to be able to directly see together the emptiness of all the phenomenas, however, all the absolute and all the conventional truth. But if you have compassion towards others, then, we live the life for others, with compassion, with benefit for others, so we collect so much of merit. It becomes incredible…as it is mentioned in the great saint, fully distinguished pundit Shantideva, great bodhisattva Shantideva, mentioned in the Guide to Bodhisattva’s Life, Bodhicaryavatara, in the first chapter, the benefits of the bodhicitta, “Bodhicitta is the most powerful one to purify, even regards purifying the defilements, the negative karma…”—There are a few stanzas talking about how powerful it is, bodhicitta is, to purify the negative karma.

[Lama Zopa Rinpoche reading in Tibetan.] “So by relying on the heroes, very powerful person, then you get saved from punishment, or from some great danger, so like that, by relying on bodhicitta even for a minute, a second, by practicing bodhicitta, the good heart, the bodhicitta, the very powerful, the inexhaustible, the very powerful negative karmas get purified. So therefore those who are conscientious, those who want to be careful, why, why don’t you rely on the bodhicitta?” Then there are other stanzas talking, so like that.

But if one has compassion, then one collects so much merit in everyday life, most extensive merit, and then one purify so much negative karma in a short time. So many lifetimes, so many eons negative karma get purified. So therefore, that helps to realize emptiness. Because to realize emptiness you need so much merit. Like if you, to do a big project, one million dollar project, then you need one million dollar; one million dollar project, then you need one million dollar; like that. To realize emptiness, you need so much good luck, or you need so much merit, so therefore, that also comes if you have, if you practice compassion, if you attempt to benefit for others. So the realization of emptiness also comes by the way.

As Longdrol Lama Rinpoche, one great yogi Lama from Sera Je monastery who often see Tara, Longdrol Lama Rinpoche, so he said, he was advised by Tara—Tara is the embodiment of all the buddhas’ holy actions—so he often see Tara, so Tara advised him to practice tong-len, taking other sentient beings’ sufferings and cause within oneself, destroy your ego, and then you give all your happiness, merit, body, everything to other sentient beings, dedicate for others, then think they receive everything what they want, whatever they need, and that caused them to actualize path of method and wisdom, and then they all become enlightened. So Tara advised him to practice tong-len, taking and giving, this practice, “So if you do this, then realization of emptiness will come by the way.” So like that.

So, not only that, then, one achieve the fully enlightenment, that which is the total, the cessation of all the mistakes of mind, all the defilements and that which is the completion of all the realizations. So one achieve this from compassion.

So, if there’s no compassion, then what there is, is only self-centered mind, only self-centered mind. Then due to that, then anger, jealous mind, the desire, all these emotional thought rises. Then, with these negative thoughts, then harm other sentient beings directly or indirectly. Harm other sentient beings directly or indirectly, from life to life. So this one person, oneself, harm others with this negative attitude, harm others directly or indirectly, from life to life, so towards all sentient beings. So that’s very dangerous. Now, even all sentient beings, they get angry to you, even they harm you, even they kill you, but you are just one person; nothing—how important is nothing. Just one living being, and that is oneself.

So therefore, it become so essential, so essential how important it is, this one person to practice, to change the attitude, to transform the mind into compassion, bodhicitta, in this life, now. Why? Now, this moment, this life, this present time, we have all the opportunities, one has all the opportunities to do this. To do, to have some, to have a change, this attitude, even though it didn’t get to change from beginningless rebirth up to now, changing the attitude into cherishing others, benefiting others, from the, cherishing others, which is the source of all the peace and happiness for oneself and the source of all the peace and happiness of numberless of other living beings. So, changing our mind into this, bodhicitta, loving compassionate thought, from the ego, self-centered mind, thought seeking only happiness for oneself, only working for self, which is source of all the problems, sufferings of oneself, and also, as I mentioned before, so that become also source of giving so many problems, harming, disturbing, to other numberless of other living beings.

So, this life, now, we have all the opportunity from our, from one’s own side received precious human body qualified with eight freedom, ten richness, and we have met the qualified virtuous friend who, not only showing cause of happiness, virtue, not only showing cause of happiness future life, unmistaken cause of happiness of future lives, not only showing the virtue, the path, the unmistaken path to liberation, that which is free forever from samsara, all the, the whole entire suffering and cause, not only this, we have met qualified virtuous friend showing not just unmistaken path to liberation, we have met qualified Mahayana virtuous friend who reveal the unmistaken path, complete path to full enlightenment, the non-abiding sorrowless state, who can reveal complete path to enlightenment without missing, unmistaken and without missing. So, and we have met not just Buddhadharma, but Mahayana teaching.

So even we haven’t met yet, even some haven’t met yet, but we have all the opportunities to meet. Especially now, we have met virtuous friend, historically proved by quotations of Buddha, by Buddha’s word, by quotations of Buddha, the, proved Compassion Buddha, His Holiness Dalai Lama, by historically proved Compassion Buddha, living Buddha. So we have met, like dream, something so difficult to express, so we have met this time.

So now, so by having the compassion, you, the one living being, by having compassion in the heart...

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