Teachings at Kadampa Center

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kadampa Center, Raleigh, USA (Archive #1955)

These teachings were given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kadampa Center, Raleigh, NC, USA, on May 3, 2014, days prior to that year's Light of the Path retreat. Lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

In Chapter One, Lama Zopa Rinpoche explains the importance of practicing the good heart and the role of parents in guiding their children. Rinpoche continues in Chapter Two with a teaching on emptiness, then discusses his mother's incarnation and the benefits of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM. In Chapter Three, Rinpoche gives a commentary on the Eight Verses and advises techniques for meditation on emptiness.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, London, 2014. Photo: Robin Bath.
How to Live Life With the Good Heart

Good morning. There are probably many students whom I met in the past and maybe some new ones. I want to say thank you very much for meeting again here and also for living your life to benefit others, dedicating your life to others and working for that, whether you have been studying Dharma or not. Thank you very much. And especially for studying Dharma and doing service for the center with the aim to benefit sentient beings, to free them from the very root of suffering of samsara, the cause of the suffering of samsara, delusion and karma.

Karma is action; it’s called karma in Sanskrit, and in Tibetan, . The actions of delusion have a cause, and the root is ignorance, particularly the ignorance holding the hallucination, holding the appearance of the false I, and one hundred percent believing in the wrong I. That is the root of all the suffering. The root of suffering is not somebody else outside, not a god, not an ordinary person, not somebody else outside; it’s our own mind. That’s why we suffer.

Happiness comes from the mind

When we experience happiness, we have to see that happiness comes from the mind. Similarly, we have to stop the suffering, which comes from our mind. It doesn’t come from outside but from our mind. That is the whole point of meditation, Dharma practice, because we are looking for happiness. We are looking for happiness; we want to eliminate suffering and achieve happiness, which comes from within our mind—not from outside, but from within our mind.

Otherwise, looking outside at the world, there are global problems, country problems, society problems, family problems. I can say that we are always looking for happiness from outside; we are not looking for happiness from the mind. So our happiness does not increase that way and we can never find satisfaction. We always look for satisfaction but we can never find it.

That’s the fundamental suffering of the people in the world. For example, singers become very famous and then so much of their life is filled with worry and fear, much more than a beggar in the street. Much, much, much more. The worry and fear is a million, billion times worse than the beggar in the street. There is the competition, wow, wow, wow, then the worry and the fear that they will become lower and others will become higher. There’s so much worry and fear. They can never find satisfaction; even though  they work for it they can never find satisfaction. That’s the biggest suffering.

There are so many people after them, even after they succeed as a famous singer or actor or whatever. What was I going to say? I’ve forgotten. Then they become suicidal. There are so many problems made by the mind, the concepts, because they do not know Dharma, they don’t practice Dharma, they don’t know about karma, they don’t know about the mind. The mind is made up of problems; there are many problems and they will blow up like an atomic bomb, they will blow up like a balloon. They will blow up, like that. [Rinpoche demonstrates]

Then, when the mind has not much space, there is suicide. There are many [suicides] happening in the world; I think every day there are many, many. Therefore, we need to stop the suffering from within our mind and this is the way to do it. Suffering comes from our mind; it doesn’t come from outside, it comes from our mind.

That’s why arya beings who have wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, those bodhisattvas, those arya beings are free. They don’t experience the suffering of rebirth, the suffering of old age, the suffering of death and the suffering of sickness, they don’t have pain. Even though they’re not enlightened beings, even though they haven’t achieved arhatship, those bodhisattva arya beings don’t experience this. Those beings who have achieved direct perception of emptiness have abandoned suffering. They have abandoned suffering, you understand, though they are not necessarily buddhas. Those who have a much higher [attainment] even before becoming an arhat, even before having achieved the total cessation of delusion, so arya beings. That [cessation of suffering] comes from this, by pacifying the delusions. So that's looking for happiness and attempting to find happiness from our own mind.

Besides buddhas, even arhats do not experience [suffering] because they have abandoned the cause of suffering—delusion and karma—therefore they do not experience that. They have achieved a blissful state of peace so they don’t experience, they don’t receive harm. Even if somebody gives harm, they don’t receive harm.

Especially with thought transformation, we can transform the suffering, the problems, into happiness; we can change. Instead of suffering, that suffering will transform into happiness, and it is dedicated to that; it is made into a positive. We can use the negative in a positive way, like that. In other words, we dedicate to achieve sang-gye, the total elimination of the obscurations and the complete development of realizations.

We use the problems for that, to achieve that. That means we use the problems to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and to achieve the peerless happiness, the state of omniscience. We use the problems for that, to achieve that. That’s unbelievable, most unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. The reason we can do that is because of seeking happiness from our mind, so we can do that. Otherwise, we can’t do that; we have no choice.

Now there are children here, I think, and that’s why we have the meditation center. Before, speaking about children, that’s why we have the meditation center, the Dharma center—for learning, for reflecting, for meditation practice. That’s why it’s so important.

As I mentioned at the beginning, there are the sufferings, the problems in the world. Now the problems and disasters in the world are happening more and more. It’s just amazing, you can never tell, particularly nowadays, like that.

We see more suffering, therefore Dharma study and meditation becomes more important; practicing Dharma becomes more important. We have to know that. That’s how we can achieve happiness ourselves,  how we can cause happiness and bring happiness to the world—through our subdued mind, through our peaceful mind, our good heart.

We can do a prayer for the children.

Therefore, meditation, Dharma practice, learning and practicing as much as we can is very important, not only for our own happiness but for the world, for the sentient beings, for other living beings. It becomes very important.

Now just before starting, it is easy to make children, but once you have made children, it means you have great responsibility for their life—whether you bring them into a suffering life or whether you bring them into a happy life. It’s a great responsibility that parents have; it’s not easy.

Generally in the world, of course, this is because [of self-cherishing.] Not for all [parents] of course. Some might have a good heart and not the self-cherishing thought when having children. Some people in the world, but not all, might have children without attachment, without the self-cherishing thought. [They wish] to benefit to the world; they have special reasons to benefit the world or to benefit others, so that’s unbelievable, unbelievable.

But most people have children with the self-cherishing thought, with attachment. However, it’s total responsibility. Of course, as parents, not everything happens according to what they wish for; it also depends on their karma. Their mind is separate from the child’s mind and it came from their past life, so it follows their karma. [The parents] become a condition for [the children] but it also depends on their karma, so parents can’t really expect everything to become as they want it. [Rinpoche snaps fingers] Like that, you can’t make a living like that. Generally, parents become the condition for the children.

The school, the schoolteachers and the school environment, what they teach—that’s one thing. Also at home the parents are setting an example, they’re giving education, the example of their life to the children. How the children’s life is going to turn out depends very much on that. Of course, as I mentioned, basically it’s their individual karma. Everybody doesn’t become as we want and as we pray, immediately like that. [Rinpoche snaps fingers] But, of course we pray our best and we do our best.

Universal Education

The way of guiding children—that’s why we started Universal Education. It was mainly aimed at the good heart; the main point is the good heart, but we started Universal Education, which has the Sixteen Human Dharmas and Ten Divine Dharmas. The Ten Divine Dharmas we have not started yet. There are Sixteen Human Dharmas and also Ten Divine Dharmas, but that comes slowly. So that’s why we started; that’s the basis, but there are seven things before that.

Rinpoche: Did we start teaching children this here or not? Did Universal Education start here or not?

Student: Yes, the Sixteen Dharmas.

Rinpoche: The main point is the good heart. The whole thing is about the good heart; that’s the main aim. Whether we are believers or nonbelievers, if we live the life with the good heart, then there’s happiness, like inner happiness in the life. Then that person can develop their happiness; they can experience inner happiness—it’s not hallucinated, over-hallucinated happiness, not that. Anyway, that is the way to guide the children.

There was a constitution made in Tibet, I don’t know how many years ago, one hundred, maybe one thousand. The Dharma King Songtsen Gampo is Chenrezig; he’s a manifestation of Chenrezig the Compassion Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, in Tibet. Songtsen Gampo made this constitution for Tibet.

He’s the embodiment of the Compassion Buddha, therefore in Tibet, because he’s the embodiment of the Buddha, of the Compassion Buddha, he was the leader, therefore, he made the punishment in the country. There was a big pile of heads, cut and piled up on the ground. This was to stop people engaging in stealing and many of those negative karmas, and for them to follow right conduct and to protect them from creating negative karma, those basic negative karmas. So to not harm and to give happiness to others.

It looks like somebody else had killed many people because their heads were piled up, but it wasn’t that. There was no other sentient being—it was his own manifestation. He’s a buddha, Chenrezig, [having compassion], so for people who were doing illegal things, he manifested and punished [them]. It was all his own manifestation, but there were heads piled up on the ground. So the people engaged in good karma for that reason.

If the leader of the country is a buddha, this is what they can do, not in some other country and not some other sentient being, but as their own manifestation. They manifest as ordinary beings doing illegal things. The pile of heads was the king’s own manifestation, his own act, so it’s very interesting.

There were two young men who came from afar to take teachings from Songtsen Gampo. If they had received teachings from him, they would be enlightened in their life. But because they heard about this punishment, the big pile of heads, piled up on the ground, they committed heresy toward Songtsen Gampo and they didn’t take teachings from him.

If they didn’t commit heresy and they took teachings, they would have become enlightened in that life, but that didn’t happen because heresy arose after hearing about the heads, so they didn’t take teachings. I think they met Songtsen Gampo and he gave them something else. I think, I’m not sure, but he gave them one big sack of sand or something, I don’t know, and then when they went back to their home it all became gold. I think there’s that story. I’m not one hundred percent sure, but something like that, that’s what happened. If they didn’t have heresy arise and they took teachings, by seeing Songtsen Gampo they would be enlightened right in that life, but it didn’t happen. So Songtsen Gampo made this one.

I was not involved [in Universal Education] during Lama Yeshe’s time. Connie, the American nun, finished university and came to Nepal as a part of a university [program], I think, to do something in Solu Khumbu, in the very high mountains. Near Mount Everest there was a nunnery or something, and she went to stay there for a long time, for many months, to study. I don’t know what they study, however they have to report to America while at university or something. It’s a part of the university [program], I think. Then she came to Kopan and later she became a nun here in America, from Kyabje Song Rinpoche.

She liked teaching schoolchildren very much and then she and Lama created Universal Education. Somehow we didn’t have the merit for Lama to write a book and nothing was written, but people were very excited and made magazines for this and that.

I was not involved for a long time and then there was a huge meeting in America, in Santa Fe. One Hindu, a great sadhu or something, held a very big meeting, and His Holiness was supposed to come, but Mainland China stopped him. One Indian lady spoke and criticized Mainland China very heavily for having stopped His Holiness from coming for the meeting.

I think I was supposed to read His Holiness’s message, but I was leaving for the airport to Mongolia from Geshe Sopa’s center. My teacher, Ribur Rinpoche, was at Richard Gere’s house in San Jose, so Rinpoche read His Holiness’s message at the meeting.

I thought at that time that everybody cannot become Buddhist, everybody cannot become Christian, everybody cannot become Hindu, everybody cannot become Muslim, but there should be a good heart. I mean there should be good people with a good heart, for their life to be beneficial for others in the world. This education must be spread, so I thought that.

Then I was thinking about what to do and I thought about my teacher, my first teacher, Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, who taught me the very beginning of the philosophy, dura [Collected Topics] in Buxa. He’s a great scholar and a great meditator. He had this Universal Education, the Sixteen Human Dharmas written down, and he only showed them sometimes. He kept this text which was very precious and only showed us from time-to-time, so I remembered that.

Of course, much, much, much later, it is there in the other lamas’ collections of teachings, and as well as that, it is also in the Tibetan government school books. There are some elaborate and some short [versions], but it is there. So I found that out.

Every single thing is there, including some things about race according to Indian and Tibetan concepts of race, but not Western. There are some things like that, according to the country.

At the very beginning, there were the very beginning words which were the praise to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, then I changed it later. And then I tried to make it lighter and lighter, and I read it at Land of Medicine Buddha with Karuna’s children and a few people. I read it. [Rinpoche laughs] Then Alison [Murdoch], the director of the center, of Universal Education, made commentaries and books. So far it has been very successful.1

But then I went over it again and I looked at a few words, then I translated it again with Steve, the American monk from Land of Medicine Buddha, and Karuna Cayton and Jon Landaw, so with the three of them, we went over it again. This text has the root, and to not lose that, to not get lost with too much commentary. To not get lost from the root, I don’t want that to happen. So this is the root. Therefore, what am I saying?

It’s so important, so important, the way to guide the children. Of course, as I said, it’s their karma, but they won’t succeed [Rinpoche snaps fingers] in every single thing that we think. But it’s very, very important for how their life is going, and then for their children. Their life will be copied for their children, then their children, and after that their children, so generation after generation.

Therefore, the way to guide children is very, very [important], we have to know that. The children’s way to learn is through our good example.

It’s not enough that they do just what the attachment wants, what the self-cherishing thought wants. It’s not enough to do that. Acting like that doesn’t mean they will have happiness in their life, it doesn’t mean that; or that they can benefit the world, it doesn’t mean that.

Therefore, Universal Education is not only to learn the words and to explain to somebody, not that, but to practice. So that means Dharma.

The good heart

The essence is the good heart. Even if we don’t know much, the good heart—not to harm others but to benefit others—should be basis, the way for parents to guide their children to become like that. The aim should be to guide them, then the children will have so much happiness and success in their life and then they will educate their children. Then those children will educate their children. So generation-to-generation, it brings happiness. We bring happiness from generation to generation—not only to our children, but from generation to generation to generation continuously bringing happiness.

Therefore always have a good heart. I made Universal Education simple. I added the college [secular education and training] and the Seven Foundations for Happiness and Peace.2 I’m not going to go through that, even though it is important. So the good heart; the aim is for us to practice and to educate our children, to guide by example, with a good heart, compassion, to not harm and to benefit others. That’s the essence. Then happiness comes, then all the success, all the wishes—our wishes and our children’s wishes—they all get fulfilled by the way. All our wishes are successful, all our wishes are successful by the way. The main aim is benefiting others, fulfilling others’ wishes. Then through that, by the way, our wishes get fulfilled. That is the very essence.

Now in the world, there’s university, there’s college, there’s school, there are so many, so many, so many kinds of education, but do they know how to achieve happiness, how to work for happiness? Do they know that? That is without knowing Dharma, without knowing meditation, without knowing Dharma, [without] this Vipassana meditation, I don’t know what, for mindfulness. I mean, mindfulness of body, mindfulness of feeling, mindfulness of the mind and then phenomena. And then breathing meditation. I’m forgetting what I’m saying, I’m forgetting that.

Without knowing Dharma—except those who are practicing Dharma—but otherwise, learning many kinds of education. But what about achieving happiness in our life and causing happiness to others? Except for those who are practicing Dharma, those who recognize karma, those avoiding the cause of suffering and practicing the cause of happiness, good karma, so people who are practicing Dharma, except for them.

Now what I want to say is very short. I want to say that if you want to have a successful life, you can have it. In short, what I want to say is that if you want a successful life and for all your wishes to succeed, then first you must create the cause of that. It’s dependent arising. It’s not independent; it’s dependent arising. It’s not Tibetan rice, it’s not Tibetan rice, [Rinpoche and group laugh] but dependent arising. So that depends on karma.

For that, for your wishes to succeed, you must create the cause, which is good karma. That is the cause, whether you believe in good karma or not; whether you believe in karma or not; whether you believe in reincarnation or not. Whether you’re a believer or nonbeliever, since you want to have success in your life and you want your wishes to succeed, you must work for others, you must fulfill other’s wishes first, and as much as you get that done, then it becomes the cause of fulfilling your wishes.

Therefore, from that work, it involves benefiting others and not harming them. It condenses that, by fulfilling other’s wishes first. For example, if we’re able to fulfill the wishes of others, whatever it is, even one time, just one sentient being’s wishes for happiness, it creates the cause for many lifetimes—not just this life, but for many lifetimes, hundreds or thousands of lifetimes—in the future all our wishes will succeed.

Karma is not only definite to experience a result—happiness or suffering, depending on what cause we create—not only that, but karma is expandable. Therefore from one negative karma or one positive karma, we experience the result —suffering or happiness—for hundreds or thousands of lifetimes, from one karma.

If the karma is not created, we never experience the result, whether it’s suffering or happiness. Also, once the karma is created, then the result, even if it takes a billion, zillion, trillion eons, the result will definitely never get lost, we will definitely experience the result.

Many problems or success in this life could be the result of [actions] a billion, zillion, trillion eons ago, so like that. Not only have we created karma in this life but also in a past life, maybe a billion, zillion, trillion eons ago. It’s also possible, like that.

In brief, the essence is like that, whether we’re believers or nonbelievers or whatever. Whether we’re believers or nonbelievers in reincarnation, karma and so forth, practicing the good heart and benefiting others should be the main practice. That should be the main practice.

Then all our wishes will come true, even in this life, from day-to-day all our wishes come true.

The people who don’t know anything [about karma] and who have success, for example, many times in America the simple working people—“simple” means not rich here in this case—those who are putting petrol or gas in the car, or just ordinary people working, they may get a million or many millions of dollars by winning the lottery. That happens many times. That’s one example of success and there are many others. Those things are not necessarily the result of karma created in this life, but from karma created in the past. As I mentioned, it could be from a billion, zillion years ago, it could be like that. So from the karma created in the past, they experience [the result] in this life. That karma becomes strong somehow, then they experience it in this life. Otherwise people would think, “Oh, how strange! How did this happen?” [Rinpoche laughs]

A Prayer for Children

I’m going to do some prayers. We will do some prayers for the children.

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, the three time merits collected by numberless sentient beings and the three time merits collected by numberless buddhas, may the Kadampa Center and the children here—those who are here now, those who came in the past, and those who will be coming here in the future—and all the rest of the children in the world, may they be able to generate the ultimate good heart, bodhicitta, and bring [peace] to this world, to pacify the wars, the famines, disease and torture and all the problems, such as the dangers of fire.

All these things, these dangers come from the mind, so they are not “natural.” I don’t say “natural disasters” because they came from karma, they came from the mind. Without the negative mind, there wouldn’t be the dangers of fire, water, air, earthquakes and tsunamis. They wouldn’t exist; they wouldn’t happen without the negative mind. There are no natural disasters—they came from the mind, our mind created them, so they are not natural disasters.

They are called natural disasters, but that is because people may be coming from not thinking, not knowing about karma, not knowing how things come from the mind, not knowing that, or either talking according to their mind. Either talking about that, according to those people’s mind who don’t know, or the other thing is those people don’t know about karma or Dharma. They don’t know that things come from the mind, then they talk, they believe that at the moment.

The dangers of fire, especially in America, it happens a lot, and then comparing that to other countries, it happens more in America. The dangers of fire or water sometimes happen in America two or three times. They happen together in two or three different states. Wow, wow, sometimes like that, fire, burning down mountains. Wow, wow, amazing, amazing, amazing. Sorry, sorry, my talk became long.

In the past I thought that if the government picked up one of the gurus and carried the guru by plane to pray at the place where there’s a fire, that would help to reduce or stop the fire, like that.

One time at Tushita [Meditation Centre] in Dharamsala, a fire happened in a house down below the gompa one morning. We were sitting on the roof of Lama’s new house. I was sitting on a chair and Lama was sitting on a chair—this was the last time.

Lama wasn’t bothered by it. Many people brought water from the well; the cooks brought water in buckets and put out the fire, but Lama was not worried. He said that a fire happened in Tibet and Lama Tsongkhapa, with the subtle mind—there’s the gross mind and the subtle mind, the extremely subtle mind—so with the extremely subtle mind, which means clear light, he stopped the fire. Lama Tsongkhapa didn’t have to do anything; just with that realization he stopped the big flames and the huge burning fire stopped.

Lama said that’s what happens. It didn’t disturb Lama’s mind. Lama was completely relaxed. That means Lama, himself, even in the ordinary view, even in the common view—“ordinary view” means even our view—Lama has this realization, the clear light, the highest tantra realization, clear light, the mahamudra.

In Gyalwa Ensapa’s lineage, kagyü is Gyalwa Ensapa’s lineage; it's not the other sect, Kagyü. Many people think it’s the other sect, but no. Kagyü means the lineage of Gyalwa Ensapa, who was Lama Tsongkhapa’s disciple. Here kagyü means the lineage of the teachings, not the other sect. Many people only know the word Kagyü, then they think of the other sect. No!

So Lama has the realization of mahamudra. Lama has the complete realization of that. Even though a big fire was happening there, then Lama mentioned that story, it was like that and the fire stopped.

There was a big fire in Australia. It took a few months to stop, there were mountains and mountains, I think. I suggested to our centers to do Medicine Buddha puja, so I requested that. I don’t know whether they did it or not, but anyway, hopefully they may have done that and the fire stopped after some time. This was several years ago. So that’s the dangers of fire. Sorry, just to make sure.

May the dangers of fire, water, air, earthquakes, tsunamis, may all these problems be pacified immediately, to never experience all these problems, and may perfect peace and happiness prevail in the world.”

May all the children in this world develop bodhicitta, the good heart, the ultimate good heart, in their mind, so the world in the future becomes more and more peaceful, and there are less and less global, country and society problems, and more and more peace. In this way, may everyone benefit and not receive harm.

May everyone benefit each other like one family, like a very harmonious family. There are families which are against each other and never talk to each other in the life; may these families be harmonious and very loving. May the people in the world become like that.

May they never become a bad example to others in the world, to other human beings, to other sentient beings who want happiness and do not want suffering. May they not become a bad example for others, so others suffer. May they never become like that.

May they achieve Dharma wisdom, ultimate wisdom, the wisdom realizing emptiness. May they achieve Dharma wisdom knowing what is right and is to be practiced, and what is wrong and is to be abandoned. To abandon the cause of suffering and to practice what is the cause of happiness, that Dharma wisdom.

That’s big, that’s the hugest problem in the world. That is the huge, amazing problem in regards to children or for anything—for the government work, that’s the biggest suffering, the biggest. Anyway, to develop the harmonious thought, and to realize ultimate [truth], emptiness, to realize like that.

May the three time merits collected by oneself, by sentient beings, numberless sentient beings, numberless buddhas, then...

 Jang chhub sem chhog

May they be able to understand Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching, the unmistaken Buddhadharma,  the stainless teaching, in this life.

If children learn the good heart, not harming but benefiting others, then they will have so much happiness in their life and they’re able to give happiness to many other sentient beings. Parents dedicate their life; parents sacrifice their life for their children. For nine months mothers sacrifice their life, and the parents take care of their children for years, years, years, dedicating the nighttime, the daytime, their life, with the material expenses. Maybe sometimes they get bored or whatever; they get bored sometimes. Maybe there is strong attachment, but they don’t get tired. Anyway, there is so much sacrifice and material expense in their life for their children. Wow, wow, wow, wow. Children want this, want that, want this, want that, want, want, want, want. Wow, wow, wow. Parents have to worry about the needs of their children. Wow, wow, wow.

In this way, by practicing the good heart, this is causing happiness in the life by giving so much happiness to others in the world. Then the parents’ dedication, how much they suffered to take care of children becomes worthwhile. It becomes worthwhile. Otherwise [Rinpoche snaps fingers], it’s totally suffering, it just has no meaning. It’s all done with a selfish mind, attachment, so it’s negative karma, it’s just nothing. 

The Ultimate Good Heart, Bodhicitta

Therefore, education is important. Now the motivation is to use education to save them, to make [their lives] beneficial for others so that becomes beneficial to us. How to do something has two things, for example, how to clean the room, there are two things. There is a vacuum cleaner or whatever it is, I mean we learn how to clean, we learn how to do cleaning in the West, we learn this. Not in the East, I don’t know, maybe not, but in the West we learn how to do all these things that we need to do.

The motivation for cleaning, how to clean with a positive motivation is very [important], then our cleaning becomes positive, not negative karma. It becomes positive action and brings the result, only happiness. So how to do something has two things. What is normally taught in university or college is one thing, but what Buddha’s teachings explain is how to do something, how to live the life with a positive motivation, a happy motivation, a peaceful motivation, a virtuous motivation, a happy mind. 

Of course, having renunciation, and bodhicitta. As much as possible, having bodhicitta, then even cleaning, for example, doing this with the ultimate good heart, benefiting others, bodhicitta. Then each movement of cleaning not only purifies our mind and collects extensive merits, not only that, but it benefits numberless sentient beings. It frees them from the oceans of samsaric suffering and brings them to peerless happiness, the state of omniscient mind. So even each [act of] cleaning, each movement, if the motivation is that, if there’s a different level of motivation, it becomes positive, more and more positive. 

Even doing work as a secretary or anything, how to do that has two things: one is what is taught in university or college, and one is what the Buddha has taught on how to live the life.

Without that, then everything becomes negative karma unless the person, the nonbeliever person, has a good heart, a naturally good heart, then it’s possible to create good karma. Otherwise, everything become negative. At nighttime and during the day the whole life is only negative karma.

Therefore, we are so, so, so fortunate to meet and come to know the Buddha’s teachings in this life; to come to know, to check the Buddha’s teachings. Even to check, even if we open the mind to check the Buddha’s teaching, even if we’re not practicing, but to check how it is. Even to open the mind is so fortunate, unbelievably fortunate, unbelievably fortunate, and particularly to know Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching.

So I think that’s enough about children.

[Tea break]

Maybe there are some questions? Is there some question? Is there some question that I can think of? [Rinpoche laughs]

Student: What happens to sentient beings who cannot find a human womb to be reincarnated in because of women having abortions and contraception and all that. What happens to those sentient beings?

Rinpoche: To those sentient beings?

Student: I mean those who cannot find a human rebirth before they take birth? Does that make sense?

Rinpoche: Yes, it totally makes sense. 

Student: Would they reincarnate in other forms if they have no choice?

Rinpoche: I think if you cannot look after the child, it’s better be careful at the beginning. Do you understand? If you can’t look after the child.

Student: Lama Zopa Rinpoche, thank you so much for helping my mother when she was dying.

Rinpoche: Oh! A le.

Student: I just want to thank you.

Rinpoche: A le, oh yeah.

Student: Thank you so much for being here. 

Student: I was going to ask you, from the Golden Light Sutra, why is it so important to remember our past lives? I keep reading it over and over again, “May we always remember our past lives.” Thank you.

Rinpoche: Past life, what?

Student: It says in the Golden Light Sutra, “May we always remember our past lives.”

Rinpoche: Oh, I see.

Student: I was just wondering about our former lives.

Rinpoche: Oh, I see. I think that remembering the past life, maybe it helps to make good preparation for happiness in future lives. For this life and future lives to be better, it might help for that. Understanding and remembering past lives, that might help. I think that’s its usefulness. 

Liberation Card for the Dying Person

I thought the [student’s] mother was in a very bad condition. That’s what I thought, what I expected. Before I went from here, I was thinking how to help, that the mother must be in a very bad condition. I mean a very awful, bad condition, near death, and so I was thinking how to help.

So I thought of the idea to wear a card with the different buddhas who have a pure land, for example, Amitabha Buddha and different buddhas, and also the dying person’s root guru. There are the buddhas, for example, His Holiness, but it can be anyone, such as the root guru of the person who is dying. Of course, if the dying person has met Dharma that’s the most important thing. It could be Padmasambhava or a picture of Boudha Stupa, anything can help, anything. It’s so powerful at death time and will help to not be reborn in the lower realms and to go to the pure land.

By looking at the mantras [on the card], it purifies our negative karma. So much negative karma gets purified and it plants seed of enlightenment, even by just looking at those different mantras, for example, the Mitukpa mantra, the Immovable Buddha’s mantra. It’s unbelievably powerful, unbelievably powerful—just by seeing it we purify the heaviest negative karma without break3 [that would cause us to] immediately get reborn in the lowest hot hell realm for the duration of life, where we would have to suffer for one intermediate eon. Those negative karmas get purified just by seeing that.

And then the heaviest negative karma, abandoning the holy Dharma, so that’s either the same or [heavier karma] than destroying all the temples in the world, all the statues, all the scriptures, all the stupas in the world. It’s heavier than that or the same. It’s the same or heavier than that, as it’s explained in the beginning of Lama Tsongkhapa’s lam-rim teaching. It’s not just stupas; it’s all the holy objects to whom you make offering. Those heavy negative karmas get purified just by looking at the mantra.

There’s another mantra that just by looking at it one thousand eons of negative karma get purified. I thought to make the card, to write the card and give it to her. So I wrote it, but I don’t remember whether I did it here or not. But now I have the card, with all the different buddhas and His Holiness and Boudha, the big stupa in Nepal, and Padmasambhava on it. My message was on the back for the person who was dying, and so that was a great card.

We have now developed this card and it was made because of your mother, because I was asked, because she allowed [me] to go to see her and I was thinking how to help. So then this card has been developed more.4

When I went there, your mother was completely okay. When I went there, your mother was taking care of herself completely. My observation regarding which deity for her to pray to came out as Tara. It came out as Tara, but when I went there she already had a Tara picture and she was praying to Tara.

But she was completely okay. She was completely taking care of herself. She got up and she was taking care of herself, so it was very good.

Student: Lama, you told me to recite, “I always go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, until I reach enlightenment.”

Rinpoche: Yeah?

Student: I keep reciting that all night long for her whenever I’m awake, thank you so much. It helps. And you came to me in the middle of the night three nights in a row. I could feel you with my heart, and I knew it was you. Thank you so much.

Rinpoche: Thank you very much. This card is to help people in the world, so this came from your mother. It came from you or your mother. Thank you very much.

So if one can’t take care of the child, then one should be careful at the beginning. You should be careful at the beginning so that you don’t have to do that, you don’t need to have an abortion. If you are not careful, then it’s so uncontrollable with the attachment. If you are not careful, then you make many mistakes that are harmful to others. If you’re harmful to others, then it causes suffering for yourself and then it’s no good. So to be careful is very important.

Yes, like that, but I think once a child happens, then you must look after it, you must take care of it. You must take care, for it’s very important.

Think that it is yourself who is born there. think that it’s yourself. Think: do you want to be taken care of or do you want to be aborted? In a simple way, think of that, how is that? A simple way to think is that it is yourself. Do you want to survive or be killed?

However, I think once the child is born, you must take care of it.

Morning lam-rim motivation

I will just mention one thing. In the morning, right after you wake up, there’s a lam-rim motivation. I received the oral transmission from Geshe Senge Rinpoche, the Mongolian lama. Geshe Senge Rinpoche was the outer Mongolian who lived in Tibet and studied at Sera and become a lharampa geshe. He became abbot after Mao Zedong died, after twenty years of unbelievable torture, when there was no monastery, nothing.

Then the next president allowed a little more [religious freedom]. There were some monks and monasteries and some study, so at that time Geshe Senge was appointed as abbot of Sera Je and Sera Me monasteries in Tibet. I received the lung from him. Then I added this first verse from the Eight Verses by Kadampa Geshe Langri Tangpa, and then Nagarjuna’s words, then some of the verses from Bodhicaryavatara, the third chapter, the third or second, I’m not sure. So that contains the motivation, like for example, taking care of children.

The purpose of our life is for others, to free others from suffering and to obtain happiness for others—not only in this life, but in future lives. To obtain future lives’ happiness and then ultimate happiness, liberation from the oceans of samsaric suffering, and peerless happiness, the state of omniscient mind, the total elimination of the obscurations and completion of the realizations. Think, “My life is to serve others; my life is here to serve others.”

I will explain the basis for the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, the basis for the bodhicitta, the basis for that. Now that includes the motivation for taking care of children as well. That’s the most important basis, so please understand this.

All our past, present and future happiness comes from our mind, our good karma, the mental factor that is abiding with the principal consciousness. There are five omnipresent mental factors and they have five similarities to the principal consciousness. Intention [Tib: sempa] is a characteristic of karma, action, and it arises with the principal consciousness. The five omnipresent mental factors have a similar aspect to the principal consciousness, and intention is the characteristic of the action, karma.

All our past, present and future happiness comes from our karma, our positive intention. So that is from our mind, the mental factor of intention. There are 51 mental factors and there are five [omnipresent mental factors], and this is one of them. So our good karma is the Buddha’s action. Buddha has two: one is by Buddha’s omniscient mind; one is within us sentient beings. __[Tib] So our good karma is Buddha’s action.

That good karma came from the Buddha; the Buddha came from a bodhisattva; the bodhisattva came from bodhicitta; bodhicitta came from great compassion— not only wishing the sentient beings to be free from suffering, but taking responsibility to free them from suffering by ourselves. By taking responsibility, whenever we are taking responsibility, not only wishing, but taking responsibility on ourselves, then the compassion receives the name, __ [Tib] the great vehicle.

Great compassion depends on sentient beings

Great compassion is generated because suffering sentient beings exist; because of the existence of the suffering sentient beings. Without the suffering sentient beings, there’s no way to generate great compassion. So great compassion came from the existence of suffering sentient beings—the numberless hell realm beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless human beings, numberless sura beings, numberless asuras and numberless intermediate state beings—so the numberless suffering sentient beings.

We can see the person who is angry with us, who always harms us with the body, with the speech and mind, who abuses us, whom we now call “enemy.” So now, depending on that suffering sentient being, we generate great compassion. Depending on the kindness of that suffering sentient being who abuses us, then we generate great compassion by his kindness, therefore by the existence of suffering sentient beings, we’re able to generate great compassion.

From great compassion comes bodhicitta; from bodhicitta comes the bodhisattva; from the bodhisattva, the Buddha comes; and from the Buddha comes good karma, the Buddha’s action. Then from there comes all the happiness from beginningless rebirth until now and in all the future lives—our future life happiness, generally all the three times’ happiness, but also our three times’ happiness up to enlightenment—all that happiness comes completely from this person who abuses us, who is angry with us, who despises us, who doesn’t love us. It all comes from this person.

So all our happiness from beginningless rebirth, now and in the future, up to enlightenment, it all come from this person, it comes from him or her, it is received from him or her. Just like that [all our happiness is received] from numberless suffering sentient beings—from every single ant, every single mosquito, every single fish in the water; from those animals that are so small we can’t see them with the eye but only with the machine, and those that are large like a mountain, such as whales. From numberless animals in the ocean, and from those that are in the ground and on the ground. When we walk in the grass, those tiny insects that fly, that run away, including each one of those and the ones in the sky. We depend on everyone, starting from this person who abuses us. So all our collections of goodness, every single thing comes from there, from this sentient being, as well as from every single sentient being.

Therefore now, this person is the most precious, most kind, most dear, wish-fulfilling one in our life, because we can achieve all this happiness from that person, including enlightenment. We can even achieve that from this person. Oh, like this, it’s so, so unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. So really, every sentient being is most precious.

Even Buddha, Dharma and Sangha;  even the Buddha came from sentient beings. By quality, of course, the Buddha is most precious, but by kindness, sentient beings. The Buddha, in whom we take refuge; every practice when we begin, we take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. By taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, our practice, whatever meditation we do, has a hundred times more merit by taking refuge at the beginning. Then if we do that practice there is a hundred times more merit.

Also, by relying on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and doing practice, then that becomes Buddha, Dharma, then like that. Even Buddha, Dharma and Sangha come from sentient beings. We take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha not only to become free from the lower realms, but to become free from the oceans of samsaric suffering forever and to achieve full enlightenment. Wow. So to cease all the gross and subtle obscurations and to achieve all the realizations by receiving blessings, by actualizing Dharma, the path, within our heart.

We become Sangha, then through that we become a buddha. Then we can do perfect work for sentient beings. Then it’s unbelievable, unbelievable. That came from Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, which came from the sentient beings. From this person who abused us comes the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The Buddha comes from this person and so does the Sangha. So this person is unbelievably precious, unbelievably precious, unbelievably precious, unbelievably precious. This sentient being, for example, the mosquito, is so precious, precious, precious, precious, precious, precious.

Now it’s also like that for the child that you are taking care of, or if you’re taking care of your older mother or father, or people in the old folks’ home or whatever. If you’re taking care of old people or if you’re taking care of children, it’s also like that.

This is not talking about “my child,” “my child.” There is no attachment, thinking “my.” No “my this,” being attached to the I or my. No, no, not like that. This is just looking at the sentient being as most precious, most kind, most dear, wish-fulfilling. The child is like that. Therefore, this is the biggest reason.

Think, “My life is for others, therefore, I am so fortunate that I can use my limbs, my legs, my mouth, my body, speech and mind, to take care of even one sentient being. They’re numberless, but even if one sentient being can find me useful, then I can use my limbs to free that person from problems and cause them happiness. I can use my limbs, wow, I’m so fortunate. It’s so important and I’m so fortunate that I can use my limbs, my life, for even one sentient being, to cause them happiness, to take care of even one sentient being, to cause them happiness and to prevent problems.”

This is the attitude for how to take care of children. Then we have so much and our life does not become boring. Otherwise, life is very boring.

I see the people who have committed suicide so easily; this happens to many [people] in the life. Even though there are many other reasons, their life is full of reasons, if they don’t have Dharma, if they don’t know Dharma, then this is what happens. Their life is very boring; it has no meaning. It’s so difficult and there is no meaning in the life.

Here, with all this there is so much happiness. Wow, wow, we are able to use our limbs, our body, speech and mind to take care of children, even one sentient being. This is so important, so precious, so fortunate. Even to solve or to stop small problems and cause even small happiness.

Like that, in our life, as I often say, some people do that in the train or in the vehicle. When there are old people or something, old or young, we can give our seat to somebody who has no seat. Even a small pleasure like that, a small comfort like that, we can offer to others. Or even if somebody—a very old man or whatever—is carrying or dragging a very heavy load, we can then try to help. We can share the load, we can reduce their difficulties.

In daily life, we can try to help with anything like that, even a small thing; we can try to cause even a small pleasure or comfort to others. We can offer like that, we can practice like that, by taking care of old people or similar. Like that, the mind is very happy, our mind is incredibly joyful and we are so unbelievably, unbelievably happy to serve others in this way.

By knowing Dharma, especially the Mahayana teachings about the kindness of sentient beings, it’s really incredible, incredible. It brings so much happiness. Anything that we can do means our life is so fortunate. Our life is beneficial to others, even [if we help] just one sentient being.

That’s why I said to think of the one who is born in your womb, to think that’s like yourself—do you want be killed by an abortion or what? Once [the pregnancy] has happened, then what I’m saying is to dedicate and to take care of the really precious sentient being.

So that’s time. Okay, thank you, thank you very much.


Due to all the past, present and future merits collected, the three time merits collected by other sentient beings and the buddhas, may bodhicitta be generated in the hearts of the six realm sentient beings. Especially everybody in this world, especially in the hearts of all the students, all the center benefactors and all the volunteers working in the center, and especially us here at Kadampa Center—all the staff, all the students and all the benefactors of the center in the past, present and future—to generate bodhicitta without delaying even a second and for that which generates bodhicitta in others’ hearts to be generated.

Jang chhub sem chhog…

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, the three time merits collected by numberless sentient beings and by numberless buddhas, may all these merits which are merely labeled by the mind, and because of that, which do not exist at all from their own side, which are totally empty, may the I, who is also merely labeled by the mind, and does not exist from its own side, may that which is totally empty achieve the peerless happiness, the state of the omniscient mind, which also exists, but does not exist from its own side, that which is totally empty, in order to lead the sentient beings, who exist but do not exist from their own side, that which is totally empty, to that peerless happiness, the state of omniscient mind, which exists but does not exist from its own side, that which is totally empty, by myself alone who exists in name, merely labeled by the valid mind, but does not exist at all from its own side, that which is totally empty.

This is the same motivation as I explained for taking care of old people or children. It’s the same motivation if you have a family life, the same motivation if you are a wife and living with your husband, or if you’re a husband living with your wife. It’s the same motivation. 

This is how to live the life—with this bodhicitta, with this good heart, cherishing others, equalizing, cherishing others. On the basis of equalizing oneself and others, then cherishing others. Renouncing I, letting go of I from where all the suffering and problems arise, and cherishing others, from where all the collections of happiness and good things arise, receiving all of that.

Like that, the same thing, whether for your husband or wife or children, having the same motivation for the way to live the life. The most important thing is how to live the life; you want to know how to live your life. That is the answer. That is the answer, if you want to know the answer to that question, how to live the life.

Thank you very much. Okay, thank you.

[End of tape]


1 The Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom (FDCW) promotes Universal Education. [Return to text]

2 The Seven Foundations were personally developed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. They are kindness, rejoicing, patience, forgiveness, apologizing, contentment and courage. [Return to text]

3 The five immediate negativities or the five uninterrupted negative karmas. [Return to text]

4 The card, which includes images and mantras to help the dying person, is available for purchase from FPMT Foundation Store. [Return to text]

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