Teachings at the Kadampa Deities Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Institut Vajra Yogini, France (Archive #1413)

These teachings were given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at a retreat held at Institut Vajra Yogini, France, from 18 April to 11 May 2003. The retreat was on the four Kadampa deities, however, Rinpoche teaches on a broad range of lamrim topics. Read the first eighteen discourses, lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

We have now posted Lecture 19 from this series. The teaching begins with an explanation of the benefits of displaying large thangkas at special events and advice on how to think when making offerings to Sangha, guests in our home and beggars on the street. Rinpoche also discusses how to have a happy and peaceful death by letting go of attachment to this life.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Maitripa College, 2010. Photo: Marc Sakamoto.
1. How to Achieve Real Happiness
April 19, 2003

Hello, everybody. Bonjour, monsieur. Anyway, now I should start to speak French. [Laughter] Instant French. I’m joking.

Here it seems there are many old faces, and, I’m sure no face, I’m sure no one is new, I’m sure nobody is new if you think back to past lives. Of course, when we take a different body there’s a new face.

I’m very happy to meet all of you and as Lama Yeshe often says, the benefit of not being dead is to meet each other again. Lama often used to say that when he met his friends, other lamas. He often used to say that, so I think, like that.

Denis, where’s Denis? Oh, Denis is there. Of course, there’s a resident teacher of Institut Vajra Yogini, Geshe Tengye, whose kindness is immeasurable, having been resident teacher here at the center for how many years? Twenty. I trust, I believe what Denis says, it’s twenty years. No matter how many difficulties and hardships there have been, for all those years Geshe-la practiced patience, tolerance, and continued to teach Dharma to benefit sentient beings, making this meditation center, Vajra Yogini, beneficial for sentient beings continuously for so many years.

Of course, one great supporter for that is Denis, who I think is more ascetic, who is more ascetic and totally devoting. He is a renounced being, a totally renounced practitioner, disciple, yet he is able to achieve many things—service to the center and many other activities, such as receiving His Holiness, and he is also able to offer service to the FPMT centers, I mean, to the organization. I think that he is more ascetic, more renounced than some in the East who live in the mountains, some of the people who have the title of renounced being. That’s what I think. I don’t mean all, but just some. Even while he was director, in his room—I haven’t been in his room actually, I haven’t been in his room—but what I heard is there’s nothing. There are a few what? A few dresses hanging up, just that, that’s it, so I think very easy to go to the pure land. I was saying very easy for him to go to pure land because he has nothing to cling onto. So it’s very easy for his departure to Shambhala, to a pure land of the Buddha.

Denis wrote to me maybe at least three times, two or three times, from time to time he wrote to me. He suggested at the FPMT board meetings or at CPMT board meetings to hold meditation courses like Kopan each year in different parts of Europe. I guess for those who cannot go to Kopan, it makes it easier for them to come to a place nearby. I guess it’s easier. He suggested this quite a few times and he sent me a letter a few times requesting that. [Peacock makes a loud noise.] [Laughter] I think the peacock also wants to give teaching. He’s expressing his wishes to also give teachings to us.

Not long ago, I thought maybe there was a plan two years ago or three years ago to do this course, right? Two years ago. After His Holiness gave the initiation of the four Kadampa deities1 and the teachings on the Bodhicaryavatara here on this land. Therefore, where we’re doing this retreat is also already blessed by His Holiness, the Buddha of Compassion. Geshe Tengye was saying this is exactly the same as Bodhgaya, where one thousand buddhas show enlightenment, so it’s Geshe Tengye’s recommendation.

That was not very long ago. So I thought it might be a good idea to do the retreat of the four Kadampa deities, a course, a retreat on that, combined with the lamrim, the stages of the path to enlightenment, combined with that. And that is the very essence; meditation on the lamrim is the very essence that makes the life most beneficial. Even to benefit others, we need to develop our mind. If our mind is down, if our mind is negative, we cannot benefit others, we can only harm others. If our attitude of life becomes self-centered mind, then we can’t benefit others and we only harm others and harm ourselves. So that’s the situation if the attitude of life is self-centered, if we have a self-centered mind. It brings harmful thoughts for both others and oneself, and it doesn’t bring any peace even to oneself, the one person. Then no question about other negative emotional thoughts; no question, no need to say how they are harmful.

Training the Mind in Lamrim

Anyway, life without lamrim is only problems, a suffering life. We’re only creating problems, producing problems, continuously creating problems, living life continuously experiencing problems. That’s all it is. There is no real happiness or inner peace without the lamrim, without practicing the lamrim—even if there is no actual realization, but without practicing, no question if there’s realization, but without practicing the lamrim, training the mind in that, in the stages of the path to enlightenment. Even concerning how to benefit others, the way to do that is by training the mind in lamrim, developing our own mind in that. And then, even concerning achieving happiness, that’s the real way to achieve happiness, so it’s the essential thing in the life. It’s more important than money. Lamrim practice is more important than money, more important than food and clothing, those daily needs.

Without the lamrim, even if we have billions of dollars it’s only a suffering life. There’s more confusion, more suffering, life becomes more dangerous. The more money we have, the more danger, the more fear and worry, like that. There’s more dissatisfaction, more unhappiness. Instead of increasing our inner peace, happiness, satisfaction, it’s the opposite, so like that. Even the external prosperities, such as finding a good job, a well-paid job, whatever, all that has to come from good karma, by collecting merit. Otherwise, there is no other way from an individual person’s side, having collected good karma, positive thought and positive action, virtuous thought and virtuous action—either by collecting merit, by making offering to the holy objects or by making charity, by benefiting others and so forth, by having collected merit, by preliminary [practices], then from that we are able to find a good job as we wish and all these enjoyments, all the external prosperity, money and so forth. It all comes from that.

Happiness Comes from Dharma

Therefore, without Dharma we can’t have any happiness, it’s impossible. Just as without the seeds, without planting the seeds, we can’t have the fruit, the flowers, the plants or the crops, we can’t have that without planting the seeds. Like that, all our happiness has to come from our own mind; it does not come from outside. Of course, there are external conditions for our pleasure, but that doesn’t mean that’s the main cause. The main cause is our own virtuous thoughts and virtuous actions. However, the cause is only Dharma, whether it is worldly pleasure, whether it is mundane pleasure or supramundane; or mundane super? [Laughter] Anyway, whether it’s mundane pleasure or the happiness which is beyond from samsara, the ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara, full enlightenment, any of these kinds of happiness have to come from Dharma.

Therefore, if we understand karma, Dharma becomes the first thing in our life. If we understand karma, from where the suffering comes, from where happiness comes—if we reflect on that, even if we intellectually accept things come from karma, when we talk about it; if we have definite understanding of karma, a definite understanding that there is no other way all the suffering comes except from our own mind, and all the happiness has to come from our own mind, that which is Dharma. In that case, Dharma becomes the first thing in our life, the very first thing in our life, the need in our life. It’s the first thing, Dharma is the first thing. It’s the most important thing, so from there we get everything. From Dharma, we get everything. If we want a friend, we get a friend, we find a friend, from Dharma. Anything, whatever enjoyment, including the highest, including enlightenment, comes from our mind, it comes from Dharma, which is our own mind. It comes from the path, which is our own mind.

I’m not going to go blah, blah, blah.

How Jacie Keeley Started the Florida Center

Recently, in America, before coming here I was in Florida. I went there maybe seven years ago, something like that, to Florida. Lama’s student, who was a secretary for Lama, I’m not sure for how long, maybe five or six years, for quite a long time, Jacie Keeley, who was extremely devoted to Lama, who actually felt in the heart that Lama was a buddha while she was doing service, who was doing secretarial work during the traveling, and doing many other services but the main thing was secretary. Because of her devotion, , she felt it was very unbearable to throw out even Lama’s used tissue paper because for her mind it was very precious. She was unable to throw the tissues in the normal garbage can, because for her, with that understanding, with that devotion, the used tissue papers were very precious.

Anyway, Jacie still has the same attitude. [Peacock calls loudly] That type of devotion, courage or strength is still there, it has not degenerated.

Anyway, what I want to say is this. Jacie started a center there in Florida, and how that center happened, you might find interesting. She had just come from India and Nepal with nothing; she came from there with nothing, no money, nothing. She didn’t have a job, nothing, and she was staying at her sister’s place. The next-door neighbor had everything, a car, a house, a family, everything. The next-door neighbor, the lady, had everything. Jacie was totally opposite, she had nothing. But that lady next door had no happiness, she was so unhappy, so miserable, so unhappy, even though she had everything. But she had nothing.

Jacie wasn’t sure how her future was going to turn out. She couldn’t tell, she was not sure how it was going to turn out. Anyway, she was pregnant at the same time. I think she came from India pregnant and she had nothing.

I think she had been praying to Lama very strongly for the baby to be born on Christmas Day. She had been praying so much for the baby to be born on Christmas Day, praying so much. I think Christmas Eve is first, right? The next day is Christmas? So, what happened, on Christmas Eve they were having dinner at her sister’s place at nighttime; in the evening they were having dinner. While she was sitting with other people, I think,  the water in the [amniotic sac] broke. Babies live in the water, right? In the pond. [Laughter] Anyway, it broke. She was excused from dinner and she left without telling anyone. Then she called the doctor, who said she must come to the hospital. She went to hospital and the next day, on Christmas Day, the baby was born. It happened exactly as she had been praying and wishing.

The other lady must have seen that Jacie had nothing, but the other lady must have seen there was some confidence in her, there must be some strength. Because, I think, having met Dharma she had devotion, that richness in the mind, in the heart, the wealth, the spiritual wealth, understanding Dharma, and especially the devotion. Not just intellectual understanding of Dharma, but the devotion, and of course, that gives confidence; that gives courage and confidence in our life. That protects us and doesn’t make our life totally go down. Whereas if we don’t have that spiritual wealth, that devotion, that understanding, if there’s nothing in our heart, then we have all these problems in our life. How would that be, when there’s nothing in our heart? How would that be? Life would be very miserable, doubly miserable, and much, much unhappier.

The more we have spiritual wealth, wisdom, compassion, devotion, the more we have that, even without money [ the more we have peace and happiness.] If we have compassion or wisdom, understanding the Dharma, Buddhism, the Buddha’s teachings, even if the problem is big for general people, it doesn’t bother us much. There is a problem but it doesn’t bother us much, it becomes small, because with Dharma, those precious qualities of the human mind that we have, we are able to overcome those problems, we’re able to reduce them. They don’t bother us very much. Anyway, either they don’t bother us at all or they become weaker. That means we have more happiness; that means we have more peace and happiness in our life. That also means we are able to communicate with others and help others, with that much positive thought that we have. 

Anyway, I think that lady [Jacie’s neighbor] who had everything externally, I think she must have seen something in her, in Jacie’s mind. There was some confidence, there was something there, while she had nothing. So one day that lady suddenly asked her to teach meditation. The next-door lady, who had everything, asked Jacie to teach meditation somewhere, at some place. Jacie had never taught meditation before, that was not her job, that had not been her job before. She felt, “Since I was asked to teach meditation, then I must do so.” Then she went to teach meditation at a place where the lady asked her to. Then people became very interested and that’s how the center happened. That’s the root of the Florida center, the Florida center in America. There’s one Florida in Italy, right? No? There’s one Florida in Italy? In Italy, no? No. Anyway, Florida in America, so that’s how the center started.

I came later, after she had been teaching for a long time; even now she teaches in the college or something. She used to teach meditation or talk about Dharma, but sort of like meditation for the house ladies, the housewives and those elderly people. She’s been doing that for a long time. After that I did a course there, then somebody became director of the center. Now there’s a resident teacher, Geshe [Konchog] Kyab, who has been there, I think, I’m not sure, maybe almost three years.

When I was there, there was an obstacle, because he returned back to the United States after receiving teachings in south India and maybe Bodhgaya, but there was some problem with the visa, with his passport. I don’t know, there was something, so they didn’t allow him out of the airport. There were some problems, so they sent him back to Delhi from the airport. So still waiting to get a visa. I met him in the United States and he requested, he was extremely keen, he asked me to come, but when I was there he was not there. [Rinpoche laughs]

The Meaning of Life

I think even though he didn’t have a particular title, being learned or this and that, he benefited the people there so much. The students received benefits very deep in their hearts. Everyone has great appreciation, respect and faith for Geshe Konchog Kyab.

They arranged a talk at Miami university, “How to Achieve Happiness.” Before that, they arranged for me to have discussion with some students. Four students came, but I don’t know what happened, they didn’t seem to have any questions. So I told them a little bit of my story, I told them a little bit, not how I was born, but a little bit of my story of Solu Khumbu and a little bit of my childhood stories, just that.

My emphasis for the students at the university, for the people who came there, was that happiness starts when we actually know what the meaning of life is. When we actually know what the meaning of life is, and if we are living in that positive attitude which makes our life meaningful, then there’s happiness. Happiness starts from there; peace and happiness.

I was telling them that this human body is unbelievable precious, because we can achieve any happiness we wish for—any temporary happiness for ourselves; and happiness of all our coming future lives, we can achieve that; and ultimate happiness, the total cessation of the whole entire suffering and its cause, delusion and karma, we can achieve that; and full enlightenment, the peerless happiness. Anything, any happiness we wish for we can achieve. This human body gives us that opportunity.

Similarly, we can cause any of those levels of happiness for other sentient beings. The happiness of this life we can cause for other sentient beings; also the happiness of future lives, all the coming future lives’ happiness we can cause for other sentient beings; and also ultimate happiness, liberation, the total liberation from the whole entire suffering and its causes, and the peerless happiness, full enlightenment, we can cause for the sentient beings. There are limitless skies of benefit we can offer to other sentient beings.

Therefore, people who are thinking about suicide, people who are thinking, “My life has no meaning,” people who are suicidal, I don’t remember what I said, but anyway. Now what I think is that it’s totally, unbelievably ignorant, it’s a huge mistake, it’s incredibly ignorant, it’s so foolish to think about suicide, to kill oneself, thinking that “I’m hopeless.”

Universal Responsibility

Then universal responsibility, as I normally mention, if there’s compassion within our own heart, then with compassion we don’t produce harm to others. This includes our own family members, those who are around us and close to us in everyday life, and other people, the neighborhood people, people in the area, in the country and in this world, so all sentient beings don’t receive harm from us. By training the mind, by having compassion in our own heart, from life to life, if we think like that, then numberless sentient beings not only do not receive harm from us, they receive benefit from us. The absence of harm is peace and happiness, therefore if they’re not receiving harm from us, they are receiving peace and happiness from us. And then by developing more compassion, they receive additional peace and happiness from our compassion.

Otherwise, without the good heart, compassion, within us, then the attitude, what there will be is only the self-cherishing thought and then due to that, anger, jealousy, ill will, all those thoughts can rise. With the self-cherishing thought then other sentient beings receive harm, like that, from life to life. If we think like that, numberless other sentient beings receive harm from us. Just as it has happened historically in this world, one person who has had influence, who has had power, but didn’t have compassion, the good heart, because of that, one person in this world killed and tortured many millions of people and gave so much suffering to this world. It happened like this historically, not just one time, but many times.

If that person generated great compassion, then because they had influence and power they could have brought so much peace and happiness in this world; if that one person who had influence and power had a good heart and compassion. Like that, an example is like that. Oneself, even though we are just one person, if we do not practice compassion, a good heart, if we don’t have this precious quality of the human mind and these values, then there’s the danger that numberless other sentient beings receive harm from us. This is the riskiest, most dangerous thing.

Therefore, there’s incredible, great urgency, without delaying even a second, there’s the need to change our own mind, to develop the mind, the good heart. There’s urgency, there’s an emergency, or urgency, we can’t wait. Without delaying even a second we need to transform our mind, to generate compassion toward others.

Maybe we can do meditation on this for just a short time, feeling the universal responsibility on the basis of the reasons that I explained. If we generate compassion for others, the numberless other sentient beings will receive peace and happiness from us. Whether the numberless sentient beings receive peace and happiness from us, that depends on us, it’s in our hands. It depends on what’s in our hands, it depends on what we do with our mind, whether we generate compassion for others or not. So, it totally depends on that. Whether the numberless sentient beings receive peace and happiness up to enlightenment, all those different levels of happiness that they can receive from us, that totally depends on us, what we do with our own mind, whether we generate compassion or not.

By developing compassion, then we are also able to develop wisdom. We collect so much merit with compassion and from that we are also able to develop wisdom, and we are able to complete the wisdom. When we become fully enlightened, then our wisdom is completed. Completing our understanding, completing our wisdom, depends on also generating compassion for other sentient beings. We need a lot of merit to be able to complete our understanding, to achieve the omniscient mind. If we have compassion, bodhicitta, then we collect a lot of merit, and from that [we can develop] Dharma wisdom, the ultimate wisdom understanding the reality of all phenomena, emptiness, that ultimate wisdom, so we are able to generate and develop that. In that way we can cease our own defilements and we can liberate others; with that wisdom we are also able to liberate others from suffering.

Now we will do the meditation on universal responsibility. How all the sentient beings, all their happiness, that which they receive from us up to enlightenment—this life’s happiness and all the coming future lives’ happiness and then liberation from samsara, enlightenment, which they receive from us—how that is dependent on our mind, whether we have compassion for others or not.

[Meditation, with sounds of thunder and rain.]

Like this, for twenty-four hours, from the time we wake up from sleep, if we live our daily life with this attitude, the feeling of universal responsibility, thinking that, “I have the responsibility for all the sentient beings’ happiness,” so with this attitude, offering service, causing happiness for sentient beings, offering service to sentient beings. When we get up in the morning, think, “This is the meaning of my life, to benefit other sentient beings.”

With that attitude we get dressed, thinking, “I am the servant to obtain the happiness to all the sentient beings,” so to take care of that, to take care of serving sentient beings. We get dressed in the morning with that attitude, the same thing. Then, with that attitude we eat food and drink; with that attitude we go to sleep, for a healthy mind and healthy body, to be able to serve other sentient beings. With that same attitude, we offer service, to cause happiness for other sentient beings. Even though we [go to work] to get money from others, the attitude is that, instead of thinking, “I’m going to work for my own happiness.” Instead of going to work with that attitude, which is not a healthy mind. The nature of that thought, the nature of that is the self-cherishing thought.

The Disadvantages of Self-Cherishing

Whenever we cherish the I, the minute we cherish the I, the nature of that thought is not a happy mind, it’s not a relaxed mind. And as it becomes stronger there’s tension and tightness, there’s tension, there’s even physical pain and discomfort. We can feel it, even physically we can feel it. Anyway, the nature of that is not a happy mind; if we analyze the nature of that thought it’s not a happy mind. As I often say, the minute we change that attitude and start thinking of others—the minute we change that attitude of cherishing the I and start cherishing others, the minute we think of others—there is rest in our own heart, there is rest in our mind, there’s relaxation. We feel free. With the self-centered mind, cherishing the I, we don’t feel free. Like a prisoner, we don’t feel free; there’s no feeling of being free.

But the minute we cherish others, there is relaxation, there’s rest, there’s freedom. We feel peace and happiness immediately in our heart, and also there’s a smile on our face. When our attitude is like that, cherishing others, benefiting others, even our face is light, we have a smiling, happy face.

With the self-cherishing thought, with the self-centered mind, even in the expression of our body, our face is tight and very concerned, we have a tight, worried face. The self-cherishing thought is manifesting even through our face. The uptight mind, the ego, manifests through our face and we seem very worried. For example, when we are walking in the street, if we look at other people’s faces—if we go to the shops or along the street and we watch the people—we can see many people there who are not happy, who are very concerned, very worried, depressed. The expression comes to their faces, like that. Then some people—those who are very good-hearted ones, whose attitude is cherishing others, always with the thought of benefiting others—have a very light face, a very smiling face, a very peaceful, happy face.

However, even though we earn money by doing a job, our attitude is not thinking that. From the time when we leave the house to go to work; when we start to leave the house for the job, instead of thinking, “I’m going to work for my happiness, to earn money for myself,” instead of that, first feel the universal responsibility. Think, “I’m responsible for all sentient beings’ peace and happiness, to free them from suffering, and to offer service to others. That’s why I’m going to do this work.”

We can change our attitude completely, by having the thought of benefiting others, the good heart, the happy mind, the peaceful, happy mind. The minute we change our mind, the minute we change our attitude into this thought of benefiting others then immediately we find happiness and peace in our heart. Immediately we find satisfaction in our heart.

Also, when we change our attitude to the thought of benefiting others, cherishing others, then many of our problems, many of the emotional problems, many of the problems to do with the ego, the self-cherishing thought, many problems that arise from that, from the ego, stop. Immediately they stop. So many problems are related to ego, coming from ego, because of ego, such as the jealous mind, attachment, all this, so many negative emotional thoughts that arise, all this, so many problems of life, suddenly they’re not there, we’re free. This makes a huge difference in our life, the difference between the sky and the earth, in our life. There is a big difference in the effect, like that.

And also the stronger the self-cherishing thought, ego, there are that many more worries, fears, all this concern and expectations, all this, just from the mind, from our own concepts, which create all these problems. We put ourselves in a world of problems. Instead of peace, we create a life of problems, like drowning in the mud, in a quagmire. Our own concepts made this difficult, our own mind made it difficult, just a mistaken, unskillful way of thinking has brought many problems in our life. Just our way of thinking has created so many problems in the life.

When our mind is disturbed and unhappy, then it disturbs the vehicle of the mind; the wind gets disturbed and when that happens, the four elements within the body become unbalanced. Then because of that sickness comes, not only the mental illness, depression and so forth, mental problems, but also physical problems come. It’s been scientifically checked that people whose nature is very impatient, who have a very bad temper, among those people it’s been scientifically proven that there is much more possibility of a heart attack or a blood clot. Anyway, statistically, it is scientifically proven that for people who have a very bad temper, a greater number of these people have a heart attack. That’s very true.

How it happens like that, as I explained just before, how it affects the mind, the stronger the self-cherishing thought,the easier it is to get angry. We can see that from our own experience. During the times our mind is very selfish, it’s very easy to get angry, and those negative emotional thoughts are very easy to arise. If we check our own life we can tell that when [the self-cherishing thought is] less—when it’s weaker, the times when it’s less, by practicing meditation, the lamrim, the times when it’s less—there is less anger, and less of those other negative emotional thoughts and also less unhappiness.

The Benefits of a Positive Attitude

There was one doctor in Delhi—I had an article, but I lost it. I had it but lost it. That article is very interesting. One doctor in Delhi, this was from his analysis. He explained that when people think others are bad, then that affects their health. That’s what this doctor said. I don’t remember the details, but this is the essence. People who think other people are bad, that negative thought affects their health, and they may have a heart attack or I don’t know what. The essence is that it affects the physical health. Therefore, he emphasized having a positive attitude toward others, so that’s Dharma. This is an article by one doctor in Delhi; I think somebody sent me the article.

That’s extremely good advice, very important advice. Also it helps to not create negative karma, to not get angry. If we put a negative label on others and we believe in our label, then that makes us angry, that makes us upset. First our mind puts a negative label on others and we believe in that and then that affects us. The negative label that we have put on others affects back to our mind and makes us upset and angry. Our mind creates our own projection, believing it came from outside. Even though it came from our mind, we believe it came from outside, that it came from the person, that it exists from its own side. We believe it came from outside and it exists from its own side. Like that, so that affects our mind and causes anger or upset.

If we put a positive label on others then the positive label has only a positive effect back to our mind. If our mind puts a positive label, then there’s a positive effect to us, like that.

Many of you might have heard that example, anyway. There are many examples, many different examples. Anyway, one example that I often mention is this story. In Tibet, one teacher had two students and I think maybe they came back from their home—I’m not sure—they came back to the monastery, they returned back to the monastery from very far away. When they arrived at the teacher’s house, he gave them cold tea. One disciple thought, “This teacher is very bad. We came from very far away, we’re exhausted, but he didn’t even give us warm tea.” The other student thought, “Oh, the teacher is so kind, because we came from far away and the teacher purposely gave us cold tea.” He looked at in a positive way and he felt the teacher was very kind, because there was cold tea.

Actually, that student got a lot of benefit. He put a positive label and he got a lot of benefit from that. First of all, he stopped creating the heavy negative karma of getting angry and criticizing—not only angry but also criticizing—he didn’t have to create that very heavy negative karma. He was free from that; he was protected from that. And then he felt the kindness of his guru thus he created a lot of merit. Of course, that’s part of the meditation practice, guru devotion, to achieve enlightenment, so that brings the disciple to enlightenment, it is the cause of achieving realizations of the path to enlightenment, and then immediately there’s happiness in that person’s heart, there’s peace and happiness.

Praise and Criticism

For example, when someone praises us, it makes pride, ego, pride, arise, however, when someone criticizes us, that makes us see our own mistakes. We discover our own mistakes, which we were not aware of, and then from that we become better people, good people. The other person who criticizes us is like a mirror, exposing or showing our mistakes. Then by discovering that we change, we become better people—kinder, more compassionate, with more wisdom. It develops our very precious good qualities, or the value of the human mind.

So it benefits our mind and that is the same as a teaching, that is the same as listening to a teaching or reading a Dharma text which talks about our own mistakes, positive and negative, good and bad. From the text we can see the bad and good in our own life, in our own mind, so like that, as it’s mentioned, the teaching is a mirror of our own life, our own mind. We are learning about our own life, learning about ourselves, and that makes us change our own mind, improve, and that’s how we can achieve liberation from samsara, full enlightenment.

As the Kadampa geshes mentioned in the thought transformation text, How to Transform the Sufferings into Happiness, for example, when somebody criticizes us, how to transform that into happiness, to develop our own mind in the path to enlightenment. If somebody praises us that makes us feel big pride, it causes big pride to arise, and if we are criticized, it destroys our own mistakes. By thinking of the advantages, the benefits, of somebody criticizing us, by thinking of the benefit of that, then if somebody is criticizing us it is transformed into happiness. Instead of it bothering us so we get upset or angry, if somebody criticizes us it becomes enjoyment. We feel appreciation for that person because of the advantage, the benefit, that we get from that criticism. The criticism destroys our ego. When somebody criticizes us it destroys our ego, it breaks our pride, it destroys our pride, it destroys our ego, like the Buddha’s teaching.

The purpose of listening to the teachings, the purpose of studying Dharma, is to destroy the delusions, to destroy the ego, the self-cherishing thought, such as the emotional mind, the pride, all these things. The whole entire teachings taught by the Buddha are to destroy the ego, the pride, all these delusions. Therefore, we think of the teachings as very precious, because of the benefit that we get from the teachings, from the Buddha’s teachings. Therefore we think that they are very precious, ceasing the defilements, including the negative imprints. Then that makes us achieve ultimate happiness, full enlightenment, liberation from samsara, full enlightenment, therefore we think the Dharma is very precious. We think that the Dharma is very precious, the teaching is very precious. We think the path is very precious; the path which ceases the defilements, the delusions, is very precious. Even though the path itself didn’t have the thought, the motivation to benefit, what it does to our own mental continuum is to cease the delusions, so we think it’s very precious.

It’s similar to medicine which can heal cancer, or any medicine that we have for very heavy sicknesses or chronic disease. When there’s a medicine which can heal that disease completely, then we think this medicine is very precious. Even though the medicine itself didn’t have the thought to benefit us, even though the medicine itself didn’t have any thought of that, it didn’t have love for us or the thought to benefit us, we regard that as very precious and we cherish that medicine very much.

The Person Who Criticizes Us is Most Precious

Now same here, the criticism is similar, because it benefits us, it destroys the self-cherishing thought, pride, all these things, and that’s how we are then able to develop the mind, and we are able to have realizations of the path to enlightenment. In the same way, the person who criticizes us, even though that person doesn’t have any thought of benefiting us, doesn’t have a thought of love or benefit for us, it’s exactly the same as the path, the same as the medicine, because we get so much benefit, advantage. We get this incredible precious advantage and benefit from that person, so that person becomes unbelievably precious.

Without destroying the delusions, we cannot be free from samsara. Besides being unable to achieve enlightenment, we cannot be free from samsara. So the person who we call “enemy,” who is angry with us; the advantage we get from that person’s criticism of us is incredibly precious. It means this incredible benefit we get, from that we can achieve liberation from samsara, full enlightenment, so we get all the realizations. Therefore, this person is helping us to destroy the obstacles, the delusions. The delusions are obstacles for us to achieve liberation, enlightenment, so that’s what this person is doing, helping us. That’s the advantage we will get.

Here, what I was saying before, knowing this great advantage that we are receiving from the person, from the criticism, here the person becomes very precious. Here the person becomes the most precious one in our life. That person becomes the most precious one in our life. What the person offers us is a great gift, a very precious gift, a priceless gift. The advantage that we’re receiving from that person, what the person is giving us, is a priceless gift. Even if we had billions and billions of dollars, skies of billions of dollars; even if we offered to repay their kindness with that, it’s not enough, it’s nothing. This person is helping us to pacify, to cease, the mistakes of our mind. The mistakes of our mental continuum, our own mind, are able to cease. So even if we give them billions of dollars or the sky filled with billions of dollars; if we offer it to that person to thank them, it’s nothing. There’s no comparison to the advantage we get from that person.

Now here it becomes incredible enjoyment. When we look at it this way, when we recognize it this way, then it becomes incredible enjoyment and happiness receiving criticism, and it becomes a great need. The criticism is needed in the life. We need the criticism for our realization, to be able to transform our mind, for our realization, it becomes a need. The criticism becomes a great need.

Before when we were looking at it negatively, when we were looking at it the wrong way, we thought it was something to abandon, but now here, when we look at it differently, in this way, a positive way, it becomes a great need in the life.

I’ve forgotten now from where I started. 

How to Achieve Real Peace and Happiness

Anyway, living our life with this attitude twenty-four hours a day, feeling universal responsibility and with the thought to benefit others, in this way for twenty-four hours a day our life and our activities become Dharma. Our activities become pure Dharma because they are unstained by the self-cherishing thought. The attitude of our life, the attitude of our activities that we do in daily life is the purest, so that becomes the best Dharma, that which has the greatest achievement, the greatest benefit or goal. The cessation of all the mistakes of the mind and the completion of all the realizations—full enlightenment—is the ultimate result or benefit which we get from that. Everything, for twenty-four hours a day, whatever we do with that attitude, everything becomes a cause of happiness, good karma. Everything become a cause of happiness.

In regard to the way to achieve happiness in our life, there is happiness, inner peace and happiness which we can achieve through guru devotion. With guru devotion, there is not only deep inner peace and happiness from moment to moment in everyday life, but also happiness up to enlightenment, the peerless happiness, full enlightenment.

Real peace and happiness [comes from] practicing lamrim, with the mind having renunciation, being content. We stop following desire, we let go of desire and clinging to this life, we let go of that. We become independent from desire. We become independent, instead of being overpowered, under the control of desire, overpowered by desire or dictated to by desire. Instead of being dictated to by desire or overpowered by desire, controlled by desire, we become independent, free from the negative emotional thoughts, desire. We become content by letting go of that, being content, freeing ourselves. So there’s real peace and happiness, which is satisfaction, by practicing lamrim, renunciation, freeing ourselves from desire.

Then we can achieve real peace and happiness by practicing bodhicitta, the good heart. We can achieve real peace and happiness.

Emptiness Meditation: Everything is Merely Imputed by the Mind

There’s peace and happiness which we achieve by meditating on emptiness, by meditating, practicing mindfulness [of] I, action and object, the phenomena; practicing mindfulness that they are merely imputed by the mind. The whole thing, not only the I is merely imputed by the mind, but even the base of the I, the aggregates, are merely imputed by the mind. Not only that, starting from the aggregates, the general aggregates, then the aggregate of the body, down to all the different parts of the body. And then down to the atoms, and down to, including the particles of the atoms, looking at everything as merely imputed by the mind.

The whole thing, starting from the I, down to the atoms, even the particles of the atoms, looking at everything as merely imputed by the mind. Starting from the I, the aggregates, and then the mind, however, in short, the body and the mind. So the mind, every minute of the mind, every second of the mind, the continuity of the mind, every split second of the continuity of the mind, including everything, is merely imputed by the mind—practicing mindfulness of that. Starting from the I, the whole thing, how everything exists, being merely imputed by the mind, so practicing mindfulness in that. Same thing also for the object—the object of anger or the object of attachment, whatever. Same thing there also—everything exists in mere name; merely imputed by the mind.

When you do that mindfulness meditation according to the view of subtle dependent arising, the Prasangika school view, the Madhyamaka Prasangika school view, when you do that, when you practice mindfulness, the object doesn’t overpower your mind. Your mind overpowers the object. The object cannot overpower your mind. As an example, the object of anger or attachment, or the indifferent object, just the objects that we see around here—the tent, the ceiling, the carpet, whatever objects, all these things—even though the way they exist is merely imputed by the mind, to our hallucinated mind all these things appear as not merely labeled by the mind. They appear totally opposite to reality. If we believe, this is how things appear to us, even though they are merely labeled by mind. As soon as the object is merely labeled by mind it doesn’t appear back to us as merely labeled by mind. When it appears back to us it doesn’t appear to us as merely labeled by the mind. It doesn’t appear to us as merely labeled by mind; it appears to us as not merely labeled by mind. And the minute we believe that this is true, the object overpowers us, the object becomes very powerful, it overpowers us, it kind of controls the mind.

But the minute we think this is a hallucination, that all these things are a hallucination—all these things appearing, this tent, the floor, the carpet, the people surrounding us, whatever—the minute we think, the way they are appearing to us as not merely labeled by the mind, this is a hallucination; the minute we think this is a hallucination, that which is a hallucination, when we do that, the minute we do that, when we are able to look at it as a hallucination, that which is a hallucination, then our mind controls the object. Our mind doesn’t get overpowered, it controls the object, our mind becomes more powerful than the object.

Similarly, the object of attachment, same thing, while being attached to that, while the attachment is arising to the object, it becomes very powerful, it overwhelms us. Similarly, while the anger is arising, the object of anger becomes very powerful.

Now, because the basis is the object of ignorance, the minute we think that it is a hallucination, our mind controls it and it cannot affect us. Then by thinking of the antidote to attachment and anger, when the anger stops, when the attachment stops, when there’s no anger, no attachment, again our mind controls the object, it isn’t overpowered [by] the object.

Anyway, here, how to achieve happiness [comes] from within our own mind, with the three principal aspects of the path, guru devotion, like this.

Then the other one is, like this, there are two things I want to mention, or three things. [Laughter]


The other thing is to practice rejoicing in everyday life. This is the other way to achieve happiness in the life. This is not worldly pleasure; this happiness that I am talking about is not worldly pleasure. This is real peace and happiness, not worldly pleasure. So in everyday life to achieve happiness, one way is rejoicing. Rejoicing is not only when we collect merit or when others collect merit by practicing Dharma, not only that, but rejoicing in anything in the life, any good things happening to others. Always practice this mind, for example, rejoice when we see somebody has a very beautiful apartment, or when we see somebody has a beautiful car, a Mercedes, this long one, this very long car, a limousine.

Actually, I saw a limousine a few times, but I’ve never been inside one. Only recently in Florida, when I was there, when I was going to the university to give a talk, the director—anyway, it was a little bit strange—the director of the center rented a limousine to go from the house to the university. I think the idea is for everybody to travel together, like sitting in a room. [I think that might be the idea, so it’s like sitting in a room. I had never seen one before, so I just made a joke to him, “It needs a shower place.” [Laughter] There is also a place to drink, like glasses, you can have coffee, or I’m not sure, so I just made a joke, “There’s no shower.”

Anyway, train the mind [to rejoice in] whatever good things others have, you see. Somebody who wants a child so much, seeking happiness, so if the person achieves that, how good it is, so we rejoice. If somebody finds a friend; if somebody who’s looking for happiness finds a friend, then rejoice. Whatever, if somebody finds a job or if somebody has success in business, making a lot of money, rejoice instead of arising jealousy, instead of using that to feel jealous, which only creates negative karma. If we feel jealous then we are creating obstacles to our success. Whenever we feel jealous of others practicing Dharma or doing retreat, or being very successful in business or having wealth or whatever it is, that jealousy is the obstacle for our success. Therefore if we rejoice, we are creating the cause of success in this life and in future lives, including enlightenment.

Jealousy always makes the mind unhappy. The immediate effect is unhappiness. [Rinpoche snaps fingers] If we rejoice, the immediate effect is peace and happiness in our heart. [Rinpoche snaps fingers] So that’s one practice for everyday life. The more we are able to do this, we will have more peace and happiness in our life, and less upset, depression, all those things.


Another way to achieve happiness is through forgiveness. Practicing forgiveness is very, very important. Forgiveness is also in Dharma, it’s also mentioned in the lamrim. In the bodhisattva vows I think if the person apologizes, if we don’t accept that, then we are breaking the vow. So that is the other thing which is very, very important.

These things don’t depend on believing in reincarnation, karma. It’s just if we want happiness we should do this. It’s a question of, if we want happiness, if we want to have a happy life, we do it. If we do it, it makes us happy. It stops all our anger, our jealous mind, all our grudges. Not the car garage. The grudge in our heart, not the car garage. Anyway, I don’t know how to spell the differences. Grudge, car garage.

Anyway, for example, if somebody abuse us, we should forgive that person. Practice kindness, compassion and forgiveness. The minute we forgive [Rinpoche snaps fingers] it’s gone. The years of pain are gone, the minute we forgive. And that one is a very, very important one.

One mother whose daughter was kidnapped and killed in America—I saw on TV that she was kidnapped, so that means many things could have happened, and then finally the daughter was killed. But the mother forgave the person who kidnapped and killed her daughter. Can you imagine? I think she has to be a great bodhisattva. On TV it said she forgave that person who kidnapped and then finally killed her daughter. So it’s unbelievable! In particular, I don’t think she was a person who had met Buddhadharma and practiced lamrim, and practiced tantra, I don’t think. It didn’t seem like that, anyway. But she was able to forgive and practice patience, and that’s incredible! That’s incredible.

And then there was a sniper who killed many, many people one time recently. One person was shot four times by the sniper and then CNN interviewed that person, and the question was whether he wanted to kill that sniper as punishment, I think, maybe by execution. And what he said, even though he was shot four times, he said normally he prefers non-violence. He said he wouldn’t recommend execution for that person. He said he normally takes the side of non-violence, that’s what he answered. That is unbelievable, that’s incredible, even though he was shot, I think, three or four times.

Accept What We Can’t Change

Many of you have heard Bodhicaryavatara so many times and have read this verse: If it's something which can be managed, then what’s the benefit of being unhappy? Something that can be changed, or can be managed, do it. Something which cannot be managed, also what’s the use of being unhappy?2

So many of our problems in life, especially relationship problems and many other things, for example, sicknesses that cannot be cured, we can use Shantideva’s quotation and apply this in all the situations that we can’t manage, that we can’t change now. This immediately stops the unhappiness and then we can accept it. When we accept it, basically—especially the second one, if we accept it, since it’s something we can’t change, if we accept it—then our unhappiness stops. That’s another way, then there’s happiness in the life.

These are meditation practices, Dharma practice, this is the practical, very important, advice of Buddha, the teachings of Buddha, like that. Not only for those who have faith in Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, but even for non-believers. Much of this they can easily practice, maybe not exactly bodhicitta, achieving enlightenment, all this, but the thought of benefiting others.

So that’s it. Thanks very much.

Dag gi ji nye …
Jang chub sem chog rin po che …
Gang ri ra wä …

Due to all the three-times merit collected by me and the three-times merits collected by others, that which are empty from its own side, may the I, who is empty from its own side, achieve Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, which is empty from its own side, and lead all the sentient beings, who are empty from their own side, to that enlightenment, which is also empty from its own side, by myself alone, who is also empty from its own side. 

[End of discourse]


1 The four deities of the Kadampas are Shakyamuni Buddha, Chenrezig, Miyowa and Tara. [Return to text]

2 See Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara, Ch. 6, v. 10: 

Why be unhappy about something
If it can be remedied?
And what is the use of being unhappy about something
If it cannot be remedied?
[Return to text]