Why Compassion Is Most Important at the Dharma Center

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

In this long letter, Lama Zopa Rinpoche begins by encouraging people at the Dharma center to offer aid to those affected by COVID19. Rinpoche continues with advice about perfectly following the virtuous friend, and gives the example of Milarepa, who followed the guru's instructions exactly. Rinpoche advises how to resolve complaints and deal with interpersonal conflict at the center, and emphasizes that the real enemy is the self-cherishing thought. The letter concludes with advice about teaching the good heart to children.

The letter was written at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, on August 22, 2020. Scribe Ven. Tenzin Namdrol. Lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Singapore, 2016. Photo: Bill Kane.

Dear one,
When you have cancer or other problems, you can sincerely take other sentient beings’ cancer or problems and experience it for them, thinking that then they don’t have the problem. Normally when you do that, the problem goes away and you recover from your own cancer. It has happened many times.

Recently in China, one person who had cancer read my books and did tonglen, taking other sentient beings’ suffering, and he recovered from cancer. In Singapore, a student’s wife had suddenly died and he became a monk. I asked him to become a monk. Somebody got cancer and he asked that person to sincerely practice tonglen, taking the sentient beings’ suffering, nonvirtue and causes of suffering, and giving them happiness. That person did the practice and recovered from cancer. There are more examples.

The next example is a little bit different. Someone who had a heart attack recovered by turning a prayer wheel and reciting OM MANI PADME HUM. There are quite a lot of stories like that. These things happened in recent times and they also happened in the past, thousands of years ago. I would just like to let you know these are by the power of bodhicitta. For example, when I have eye pain or stomach pain, my pain is not really cancer but sometimes I think it is. The minute I think to do tonglen—even if I’m not actually doing tonglen, but just having the thought to do tonglen—then the pain stops. That is the power of bodhicitta. It is not that I have bodhicitta, but just the thought of it. I am not telling a lie.

It’s very good you didn’t get the virus and that you didn’t die yet. And also, the nuns who went [to help people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic] a few times, that’s very, very good. I really want the Buddhist monks and nuns to go there, to give charity of food, so then it leaves a positive imprint in the minds of those very poor people who have so much suffering. That positive imprint generates for them the aspiration to be a monk or nun, to renounce the householder’s life and to take vows.

It leaves an imprint on their mind to achieve enlightenment—to be free from samsara and to achieve enlightenment. It helps not only in this life, but from life to life. From that positive imprint, from life to life it helps them to become monk or nun and to meet Dharma. Wow, wow, wow. And then, from life to life—wow, wow, wow—for hundreds, thousands and millions of lives it brings them to enlightenment. That is why I asked the Buddhist monks and nuns to go there. I was very happy that the nuns went, and you went at least one time after I explained this. At least you did something. I was very, very happy about that.

I will just tell you straight from the heart, lamrim is the essence of the whole path to enlightenment. Lama Atisha was invited to Tibet to revive Buddhism when Tibet was totally destroyed in terms of misunderstanding tantra. When the Tibetans practiced sutra, they couldn’t practice tantra and when they practiced tantra they couldn’t practice sutra, like hot and cold. There were a lot of misunderstandings about tantra. So then Lama Atisha wrote the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, containing all the teachings of the Buddha—sutra, the individual liberation teachings, jang sem, bodhicitta, and ngag [tantra]. All those extensive teachings were integrated into the lamrim, the graduated path to enlightenment, having three scopes or three levels of practice. This pacified all the wrong concepts about Buddhadharma in Tibet and thus revived Buddhism. It helped Tibet so much, and since then, numberless beings have become enlightened, up to the present time. They have become free of samsara and have actualized the path—the arya path, the ordinary path, bodhicitta, emptiness, renunciation and the root of the path to enlightenment, correctly following the virtuous friend.

Milarepa: A Fortunate Disciple

For example, Milarepa, who is well-known in the world, became enlightened as a lay person. He became enlightened by practicing Dharma and not by Western knowledge, psychology, psychotherapy or whatever. Not like that, but by Buddhism. Milarepa’s uncle and aunt had taken all the jewels and possessions from the family after his father died, and his mother advised him to learn black magic. So Milarepa went to learn black magic from a lama. Then he spent seven days on the mountain. Up in that area he dug a hole and was doing retreat there [and used black magic to harm his uncle and aunt.] Big rocks came down from the mountains, wow, wow, and destroyed the house while the uncle and aunt were at a wedding. Many people, who were in the house dancing, drinking and so forth, were killed, and many animals, including horses, were killed downstairs. Upstairs more than thirty or thirty-seven people were killed and even more animals were killed downstairs. Then Milarepa became very unhappy.

The black magic lama sent Milarepa to Marpa, saying, “If you want to practice Dharma, go to see Marpa.” That is how he met Marpa, his guru. Milarepa had nothing, so he offered his body, speech and mind. Marpa took care of him and gave him food, clothing and shelter, and then gave him teachings. One time, but not on the first day, he made an offering of an empty container to Marpa and because of that, it is said in the story that he had to bear many hardships while practicing Dharma in a cave.

Milarepa just lived on nettles—in the morning, nettles, and in the evening, nettles. No chilli, no pepper. One day a thief came by and asked, “Where is the chilli? Where is this and that? Where is the salt?” Milarepa had only nettles for everything. He didn’t have anything else. He didn’t even have one rupee—a Nepalese rupee or a Tibetan rupee, any sort of rupee, whatever it was called in Tibet. He didn’t have anything at all, not at all. He had unbelievable hardships. Then his guru Marpa, an enlightened being, filled his pot with butter and made a light offering so that Milarepa would become meaningful in his life. Then for many years Milarepa did the practice. Exactly! He followed Marpa’s advice and wishes exactly! Because of that, he achieved all the realizations, all the tantric realizations, and he achieved enlightenment within a few years. This happened.

Just by remembering his name, it benefits us and is the cause of being born in the pure land. Remembering the holy name of Milarepa and reciting his mantra, we are able to be reborn in the pure land and to meet Milarepa; we are able to see Milarepa. It is said by the great holy being, Karma Ngawang Yonten Gyatso: “Highly actualized, enriched in all the qualities, the lama and perfect, Mila. Even by hearing the name, for seven lifetimes we will never be reborn in the lower realms, it is promised. At the moment, he is abiding in the King’s Rain of the Great Unification, which means full enlightenment, buddhahood; he blesses samsara and nirvana and brings all the stability, which means to the place, the world, and to all the moving sentient beings, every single sentient being. By making requests, he definitely guides us with compassion and he grants blessings of the great drops to everyone. Therefore, attempt to practice the supreme yogi-enriched qualities.” This is said by the great yogi Karma Ngawang Yonten Gyatso.

When Milarepa went to see Marpa, he didn’t give teachings for years. Marpa made Milarepa build a nine-story tower by himself alone. No laborers were allowed. When Milarepa finished building the tower, he had to tear it down and put the stones back where he found them. Then again, he had to rebuild the tower, and again tear it down. And again rebuild. This happened three times. Then Marpa’s wife, the secret mother, pushed Marpa to give initiation and teachings to Milarepa. Marpa listened, but his own wish was still for Milarepa to bear more hardships so that he could achieve enlightenment more quickly, in that life. Of course, Marpa was an enlightened being, manifesting the mandala and giving initiation and teachings.

Then Marpa sent Milarepa to the mountains to do retreat and Milarepa did exactly what his guru advised. Exactly! Because of that and due to bearing many hardships, Milarepa became enlightened in a few years. Even so, you have to understand, even from the early times, Milarepa was an unbelievably, most lucky disciple, in that he was able to bear the hardships and build a nine-story tower three times. He followed Marpa’s advice, and heresy never arose at all. No anger, no heresy. Not only that, initially Marpa didn’t give him teachings. When Marpa did give teachings and Milarepa came with the other disciples and Marpa saw him there, he immediately kicked him out. He scolded and beat him.

When there’s a perfect disciple and a perfect guru together, enlightenment happens. It is like with a dollop of tsampa we can make anything. It’s so easy. Like that. At that time Milarepa was such a fortunate disciple, and Marpa was an incredible guru, who knew exactly how to purify all the negative karma, all the heavy negative karma from many past lives and from which we have to suffer for eons and eons in the lower realms. He knew how to purify this and how to achieve enlightenment quickly. With a guru we can accomplish this. Nowadays, if the guru treated the disciple in that way, then the next day the guru would end up in prison or be killed.

This is one story and there are many holy beings’ stories. It’s very important to read the life stories of Lama Tsongkhapa, and many others, then you will understand how to practice Dharma. Nowadays people have no fortune and the guru could end up in prison or be killed.

The Root of the Path to Enlightenment

So basically, the root of the path to enlightenment is perfectly following the virtuous friend. That is the first thing to practice and to have realizations of—seeing the guru as a buddha from our own side. To see this from our own side, that’s supposed to be the stable realization, then to follow the advice and the wishes exactly, whatever the guru advises. That brings us to enlightenment, enabling us to be free from all the wrong concepts and obscurations, and it brings all the right realizations.

What the people [at the center] are doing, what they are doing is kind of against that, against she nyen den tsul, perfectly following the virtuous friend, against that. So they are against Dharma.

What is Dharma? It seems it is never thought about and never analyzed. Then all the things, all the talks and all the works, are against Dharma. Everything that is against Dharma becomes negative karma, actions of body speech and mind done with the motivation of ignorance, not understanding karma and Dharma, not understanding the ultimate reality of the I and so forth. Then we live totally with attachment and anger; we do everything with that. All our actions of body, speech and mind become negative karma. All our talks become negative karma and all our writing, too. Everything becomes negative karma and the cause of being born in the lower realms. Not only do we create confusion and suffering in this life, but after a terrible death, there is the suffering of the lower realms for eons.

Even the human beings’ heaviest suffering is small compared to the hell beings’ suffering. The human beings’ heavy suffering becomes incredible pleasure, peace and happiness. The smallest suffering of hell is a billion times bigger than the suffering of a human being. We don’t know and people don’t know the future. They don’t know karma; they don’t know Dharma. That is what happens. Our actions don’t become Dharma—following the virtuous friends and their wishes, renouncing attachment and in particular, the attachment to this life, attachment to this life’s happiness. That worldly concern is the source of all the hundred, thousand, million sufferings. I promise. That’s why when we practice Dharma, real Dharma, when our practice becomes real Dharma, it brings incredible, unbelievable peace and happiness. We are so happy.

This is what it means to learn and practice Buddhism. It means this. In learning Buddhism there’s zhi den pa nyi, the base, the two truths, absolute and conventional truth, lam tak chey nyi, the path of method and wisdom, dre bu ku nyi, the result, what we achieve, dharmakaya and rupakaya. That’s what we need to achieve. It’s all based on Dharma practice, as I have explained, and what Dharma practice means.

Here, what the people [at the center] are talking about is totally opposite to holy Dharma. They are like small children fighting with each other and making noise. It’s like that.

Of course, if you have money you should offer it to all sentient beings, even to millionaires and billionaires, and not only to beggars. Offer everything to millionaires and billionaires if you have an endless amount. With no effort, if there’s money, you can give even to sentient beings who are millionaires or billionaires, as they don’t have satisfaction. However much they get, they want more. Due to dissatisfaction and desire, they think they don’t have enough and they want more and more. Hence, there’s dissatisfaction and suffering, when even physically they may have everything in the world. So, yes, you can give, you can make charity even to the millionaires, billionaires and so forth, and not only to the beggars.

When Students Criticize the Center Director

But I tell you, when you are the director of a center, how would you do it? For example, with the little money of the center, would you give it to everybody and then let the center disappear? Or what would you do? I’ll give you another example. Of the many people working for the center, for some their heart is the center, so they want to protect the center and they want to develop it. Conversely, many people want to develop themselves and they become careless toward the center.

For example, someone who runs a country as the president or minister or whatever, may never think of helping the population, the millions. They never think about helping the people, freeing them from problems and bringing them happiness. They never think about that. They only think about how to get money from the people in order to develop their power, their influence, their family, all that. Their aim is mainly control. When they carry on like this, many problems happen in the country. Then the population doesn’t like that leader. They can see that leader and they don’t like them. Then fights start, civil wars start. In Syria and in so many countries that has happened. Do you understand? Their heart is not taking care of the people; it’s only for their own power and influence. If their heart is with the people, the population, to free them from suffering and to cause all the happiness, it’s incredible, incredibly pure. So much, so much, but that’s not happening.

I’ll give you another example. In one center, all the people and students criticized the director a lot, then one of the students who had previously criticized the director became director of that center. When he became the director, again all the others criticized him. It’s always like this. Just like that case, the criticism doesn’t become less.

That’s why I say, when you become the director, one of the motivations is: “I’m the director and I’m like a bodhisattva, like the Buddha, because I’m here to serve all sentient beings, to free them from suffering and to achieve all the happiness for them. I’m here to serve. I’m the servant.” It’s like the bodhisattva’s motivation. “I’m the one who receives all the complaints.” You accept that from the very beginning when you accept to be a director. “I’m the only one who receives all the complaints from people.” So when the complaints come, you know, as you’ve been expecting them every day. You don’t get shocked. When you receive a complaint, you can say, “Oh, I see.” It’s just by the way, like wind passing through your hair. You see it and it doesn’t really shock your mind. It helps so much. It helps very much, psychologically. It does not disturb your peace and happiness. You continuously have happiness.

When you actually become the director, when your heart is in the center and you don’t want to lose it, but to increase it, develop it, help the people and not bring problems, then you’ll understand. Then you will understand how it should be run. Otherwise it’s easy to complain.

When there’s a complaint, it’s important to hear both sides, not only one side. You should hear both sides, then decide. You have to use your wisdom, your Dharma wisdom, understanding karma. Then you need compassion—compassion is most important, to have compassion for sentient beings. If you want to develop your mind and you want to bring peace and happiness to the center and beyond, then you have to think in a big way and not with a very narrow mind. I’m sorry to say this.

The Kindness of Mother Sentient Beings

Here, please read this as I explain to you the kindness of sentient beings, the extensive kindness of sentient beings. All the past, present and future happiness, including enlightenment, is totally, totally received by the kindness of sentient beings—every hell being, every hungry ghost, every animal, every human, every asura, every sura, every ant, every mosquito, every tiny insect, in the water, in the forest, in the earth, everyone, where there are human beings and where there are no human beings, every single being of all the realms.

The person who is angry with us or physically shows a bad face or whatever, who beats us or kills us, who complains, spits or harms us with an angry mind—by depending on those whom we call enemy, those whom we don’t like at all or we don’t want to see, don’t want to talk to, don’t want to think about, don’t want to pray for—on the basis of their obscured suffering, compassion arises. On the basis on their kindness, compassion arises; compassion that wishes to free them from suffering and cause them happiness. When the compassion to do that by oneself arises, that’s great compassion. From that, then comes bodhicitta. From bodhicitta comes the bodhisattva and from the bodhisattva comes the Buddha.

There are two kinds of holy actions that the Buddha has: one is the Buddha’s holy actions coming from his holy mind, and the other holy actions are within us, the sentient beings. That is our virtuous karma; they are the Buddha’s holy actions. So there are the Buddha’s holy actions within us sentient beings. From the Buddha’s holy actions, the good karma, all the happiness comes and is received—past, present and future, including enlightenment.

Every single happiness, past, present and future, is totally received from sentient beings, from every sentient being. Every sentient being is most precious, most kind, most dear and wish-fulfilling to us. Like that.

The second kindness is of being our mother from beginningless rebirths and not just one time. The kindness such as giving us a human body so that we can meet Dharma and learn Dharma, purify and collect merits, and actualize the path and achieve enlightenment, and besides that, become free from samsara. It’s most amazing, most amazing. All sentient beings did that for us, therefore they are most kind, most kind.

Also, they protected us from life danger when we were born to them as a human being, and not only as a human being but also as an animal. They protected us from life danger not just once, but every day, hundreds of times. Every sentient being did that from beginningless rebirths. Their kindness, can you imagine?

The third kindness is bearing the hardships. All sentient beings have been our mother and have borne hardships, not only as human beings but even as animals. For example, if we were born as a bird and from the nest the mother goes far to collect worms all the time, and brings the meat, which may not be completely dead, then feeds her baby. Each time they do this, they have created so much negative karma to be born for many lifetimes in the lower realms, for many hundreds of lifetimes. This is said in the teachings, and in one teaching, it is said for eons. Like that, for eons and eons they suffer in the lower realms, in the hells, with the hell beings’ suffering and so forth. And for eons and eons and eons they never meet Dharma, only suffering. The mother has to suffer because of taking care of us. I’m only giving the example of a bird, however, there are many other examples. Like that, how much they have suffered for us, taking care of us from beginningless rebirths, which are numberless.

The fourth kindness is giving us education, as a better way to understand, thus because of the mother’s kindness, we can now read Buddhadharma. We can meet Dharma and read and teach. All of that. This is due to the mother’s kindness and not just this life’s mother. All sentient beings have done this in the past. Wow, wow, wow! That’s amazing, amazing, amazing!

There’s also the kindness that our life is healthy, we are not dead, all that, and because a house was built, we stayed in the house and had all that pleasure. When  a house is built, so many sentient beings get killed, human beings bear suffering, bear hardships, like that. So many suffered and died for that—the ants, the mice and whatever—when the field was plowed to lay the foundations. Then there’s food. In the West you buy food in the supermarket. First it’s sprayed and so many insects are killed, then you get the food.

Even in the water there are insects, the tiny ones we can’t see. They get killed when we boil water and so forth. There are numberless like that and this is not only talking about now, but since beginningless rebirths, all for the happiness of enjoying food and so forth, and being able to survive. So many sentient beings have suffered and were killed. Then, there’s clothing, the skins and silk, those things that came from animals’ bodies. They suffered unbelievably. They were put in hot water and suffered so much and like that were killed. Even materials that didn’t come from an animal body, so much suffering occurred in relation to plants. So many sentient beings died, were killed. Also, people have had to work very hard. All that.

There’s nothing sentient beings didn’t get killed for and didn’t suffer for, so we could receive happiness. There’s nothing. And it’s from beginningless rebirths. Therefore, they are most kind, most dear, most precious, and for us, wish-granting. So here, we need to totally dedicate our life to do everything to pacify the sufferings of other beings and achieve all the happiness for them.

For this aim, we learn the individual liberation path and teachings, then the bodhisattva’s path and teachings, then the tantric path. If we were lame or blind, we couldn’t help others who were falling down or drowning in the ocean. We need to have eyes to help and we need to have limbs to run and to help. We use our body, speech and mind to help them, totally dedicated to whatever helps us do the most beneficial thing, the most worthwhile thing for them. That is what makes the numberless buddhas and bodhisattvas most happy. It’s the best offering to the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

OK, so here I have some prayers. It’s very important to learn them and to practice. Otherwise, if we don’t practice, it’s like a computer, with all the sutra and tantra inserted but there’s no practice, nothing. Basically nothing, then we die. Basically nothing. Like that, we are unable to die [happily] and unable to subdue the mind. Bringing happiness to our mind through the Dharma doesn’t happen. If we don’t subdue the mind, it doesn’t happen. We have to subdue the mind, so we have to practice. Sorry, sorry my talk has become long, but I want to talk heart to heart. It’s very important to understand these points. Now I will translate the prayers.

The Real Enemy Is the Self-Cherishing Thought

Nagarjuna, [who was] like the second Buddha, based on what Buddha taught—not a different teaching from that of the Buddha, but based on what Buddha taught—said, “Whatever suffering sentient beings have, may it ripen upon me, and whatever merits and happiness I collect, may it be ripened toward all sentient beings, to every sentient being.” This is the strongest way to practice, to actualize bodhicitta, to become the greatest hero. It’s like in the world, whoever killed the most people, like thousands or millions in the First or Second World Wars, that person is regarded as a hero. They get a very high position and statues are built when the person dies.

Here, the real hero is the person who takes other sentient beings’ sufferings on themselves and is able to dedicate their happiness and merits to every sentient being. We take all their suffering and eradicate or eliminate our self-cherishing thought, the real enemy, which caused us to suffer from beginningless rebirths, now and in the future. Not only that, it caused the suffering of numberless sentient beings in the past, present and future. That’s our worst enemy. The self-cherishing thought, the I, didn’t let us attain enlightenment so far, and it didn’t let us enlighten all sentient beings. So far, like that. It’s unbelievable. Then generally, the I didn’t allow us to achieve happiness, to become free from samsara and so forth. This practice of bodhicitta, tonglen, is most unbelievable, the real and most real hero. Developing bodhicitta through tonglen becomes the source of happiness for numberless sentient beings, in order to achieve enlightenment for them and to enlighten them.

Kadampa Geshe Langri Tangpa said this in the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation. You must know the prayer, the Eight Verses, as His Holiness always teaches it. 

When someone whom I have benefited
And in whom I have great hopes
Gives me terrible harm,
I shall regard that person as my holy guru.

That person whom we have benefited so much—when that person didn’t have money we gave them money and when they didn’t have food we gave them food, whatever we have done, with the high hope and expectation that they would benefit and not harm us, but they do the total opposite, they harm us or do something very harmful thing to us, then we should practice looking at that person as a holy guru.

Buddha-gurus explain how to practice patience, but there’s no opportunity to practice patience with them. While someone is our friend, they have no anger toward us, therefore, there’s no opportunity to practice patience with them. The buddhas, the gurus, explained how to practice patience. The opportunity to practice patience is not even occurring with the stranger. The only person we can practice patience with is the one who is angry with us, who harms us; that’s the only person. It’s very rare. It’s not every sentient being, so it’s very rare. So that’s the only person. If we don’t practice patience right now, that person’s mind can change. It won’t last long. When the mind changes and there’s no anger, then we have no opportunity to practice. While the person has anger, we have to develop patience.

As we practice patience, we are able to complete the paramita of patience. There are six paramitas: charity, morality, patience, perseverance, meditation and wisdom. When we achieve the paramita of patience, no anger arises and we only see incredible kindness, the most kindness. Then, from that, we achieve enlightenment. We become free from all the obscurations and mistakes of the mind and complete all the qualities and realizations. Then we are able to do perfect work for sentient beings.

There’s not even one single obscuration, so we can do perfect work for every sentient being forever. It’s most amazing, most amazing. We get skies of qualities. We become a buddha and we get skies of qualities; it’s most amazing. We get it all from our enemy. They cause us to become enlightened. By their anger, they let us practice patience. So we get skies of benefit from them. Wow, wow, wow! We get enlightenment from them. Wow, wow, wow! So they are most precious, most dear, most kind and wish-fulfilling for us. That’s the kindness of the enemy.

Even if someone gives us $100,000, we don’t feel the kindness as deeply as when somebody harms us and then we practice patience. For example, think, “I am always following delusion and the self-cherishing thought,” and, “They are helping me destroy my ego, the self-cherishing thought and so forth.” Remember their kindness. It’s so deep, it’s unbelievable. It could even be like the sky. Unbelievable. We should feel it very deeply, like that. That is what is contained in the Eight Verses by Geshe Langri Tangpa.

Please have patience.

Compassion for Those Who Harm Us

How did Guru Shakyamuni Buddha practice toward those whom he had benefited so much and who gave him harm in return? Guru Shakyamuni Buddha especially generated compassion for that being. That’s why we make prayers to be able to follow in the footsteps of Buddha, [as mentioned in this verse from the Thought Transformation Prayer of the Buddha’s Previous Lives]:

When he was Prince Great Meaningful Virtue,
He was able to bear ingratitude with compassion.
In the same way, may I cherish with great compassion
Those around me who disturb me with their ungratefulness and bad dispositions.

“When Buddha became the king’s son, Having Great Virtuous Meaning, he was able to bear with compassion when others did bad, totally wrong things to him. Just like that, may I be able to generate great compassion for those beings who did totally wrong things to me and who disturbed me with their bad nature.”

This is what Buddha did. Buddha generated strong compassion for anyone whom he had greatly benefited and who harmed him in return. In this way, by not harming that person in return and, instead, by especially generating extremely strong compassion and caring for them the most, by not harming them and by benefiting them in the best way, we create very strong good karma. In this way, we receive great benefit from that sentient being, and not only now, but there is continual great benefit to us from that sentient being. It brings us so much happiness and success from life to life and in the end, we go to enlightenment. It is like a sun-shining result.

Also, because we don’t harm them back, we care for them and help them in the best way we can, this enables us to educate others to be positive and not negative, to not generate pride, anger, desire and all those things. Instead of causing others to generate delusions, our behavior becomes educational for them. It makes the other person’s mind change into the good heart. It causes them to generate a good heart. It becomes a good influence, a positive example, the best example for them. Then that inspires them to not harm others.

So according to the group that you are talking with—all the group that is going blah, blah, blah—the Buddha is wrong. For them, for their minds, the way the Buddha practiced is totally wrong. Also, the numberless beings who became enlightened by practicing according to Buddha’s advice, not only in the past, but even now and in the future, all those who will become free from samsara and achieve enlightenment, they all made mistakes by following the Buddha [according to that group]. It becomes like this. But maybe some of the group don’t know what the Buddha did?

The great bodhisattva Shantideva said in the Bodhicaryavatara [Ch. 6, v. 47]:

My karma persuaded them,
Therefore, I receive this harm from others.

You have to understand that in the past—it could be this life, it could even be the same day or yesterday, or it could be a billion, zillion, trillion, numberless eons ago—you harmed that person in that way. So, this harm to you is the karmic result of that. Since you are a Buddhist, you must accept karma. We people are Buddhists, so in this case we should accept karma. There is no one who is a Buddhist and relies on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha who does not accept karma. There is no such Buddhist.

By that, didn’t I make this sentient being
Get lost in the hole of hell?

That sentient being harmed us out of anger, attachment or ignorance. That becomes negative karma for them. That makes the person, who is now in the human realm, fall down into the hole of hell, into the hell realm, where they will experience suffering for an unbelievable length of time. That is what will happen to that sentient being from that harm they gave us, from that negative karma. So, we caused all that. Therefore, we should generate incredible compassion, unbelievable compassion for that person. It is our negative mind, our self-cherishing thought, that caused that person to be born in the hell realm and suffer there for eons. Therefore, we must do whatever we can do in order for that to not happen.

You can talk to them about Dharma by explaining karma—the cause that they created and the result that they will experience without choice—so that the person confesses their negative karma. Or you can talk to them about renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness, and so forth. Or you can even recite one mala of OM MANI PADME HUM with great compassion to purify your enemy’s negative karma. You can pray for them to not be reborn in the hell realm and also to be free from samsara and achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.

Even if you are going around a stupa, you can think that. Even if you are making offerings, such as light offerings, water offerings, and so forth, you can dedicate for that person. You should try to help them in whatever way you can. You can meditate on guru devotion, correctly following the guru with thought and action, and then purify the heavy negative karma of that person who you call enemy. You can do tonglen with bodhicitta, taking their negative thoughts on your own negative mind, on your self-cherishing thought, and totally clear away your own self-cherishing thought, the main enemy that made you suffer before, that makes you suffer now, and that will make you suffer again in the future; that doesn’t allow you to be free from samsara and achieve enlightenment; and that caused suffering to numberless sentient beings. I think I mentioned that to you already.

If there is happiness in your life, that is the result of something you did to benefit others in the past. If there is suffering, such as other people getting angry with you, complaining about you, or with their body beating you or killing you, or even looking at you badly or looking down on you, that is the result of your negative karma of harming others in the past. Also, if they harm you with their speech, such as complaining about you or not thanking you for helping them, or if they harm you with their mind by getting angry with you or disliking you, whatever someone does to harm you, all that is the result of your negative karma, of what you did to that person in the past.

All that harm you did to them in the past came from your mind, from your self-cherishing thought. You have to know that. As a Buddhist, you have to know that all your happiness is created by your mind and all your suffering is created by your mind. All happiness is created by your positive mind, a virtuous mind, and all suffering is created by your negative mind, such as the self-cherishing thought.

Buddhism doesn’t say there is a god, a creator of your life, of suffering and happiness, and of the whole world. If there were a creator god, it would mean that we would have no choice, that we wouldn’t have freedom to eliminate suffering and achieve enlightenment, as it is all up to that god. We would have no choice, no freedom at all, so what could we do? But Buddhism doesn’t have a creator god. Buddha said:

You are an enemy to yourself.
You are a guide to yourself.

When we follow the negative mind, at that time we become our own enemy. When we follow the pure thought of the guru, there is protection in our life, we collect unbelievable merits and purify unbelievable defilements. So, we are the creator of our happiness and our suffering.

When we follow attachment to samsara, at that time we are our own enemy because we create suffering for ourselves. That is why we have suffered from beginningless rebirths up to now. That is why we are still not free from the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death. The buddhas were sentient beings who generated renunciation of samsara. They realized how samsara is in the nature of suffering and then they became free from the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death, and achieved nirvana.

By following the self-cherishing thought, as I already mentioned a few times, we have created the sufferings of samsara for ourselves from beginningless rebirths, we are doing that now and will do that again in the future. We suffer endlessly by following the self-cherishing thought.

Now, by following bodhicitta, the most positive thought, it will bring us happiness. Not only will we become free from samsara but we will achieve peerless happiness, the total cessation of obscurations, gross and subtle, and the completion of realizations, sang gyä. And not only that, we will also be able to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to peerless happiness, enlightenment. That is most incredible. So, that is what the Buddha is doing. He enlightened numberless sentient beings in the past and is enlightening them now, including us. When we hear teachings or take initiations from His Holiness, he is Shakyamuni Buddha in our time. His Holiness appears to us in the aspect of Shakyamuni Buddha and that is how we should see him.

Also, because we haven’t realized emptiness, the ultimate nature—this is without talking about tantra, which is more subtle—we continuously create samsara as we have done from beginningless rebirths. We never became free from samsara because even though the I and all phenomena exist in mere name and do not exist from their own side—they do not exist by themselves, are not truly existent, and are not real—they have been appearing like that to our hallucinated mind and we have been believing that. By realizing emptiness, by seeing the I and all phenomena to be empty as they are empty, by seeing the truth, it eliminates the root of samsara, ignorance. And by developing that understanding, we gain the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, which ceases the seeds of delusion and karma. By ceasing them, we become free from all the suffering, the oceans of sufferings of samsara. Then, by continuing the direct perception of emptiness with the help of the bodhicitta realization, we cease even the subtle obscurations and achieve enlightenment.

There are eight prayers that we Buddhists do, especially for people who died, but they can be done for any purpose, for the living as well as for the dead. One of them is the prayer Until Buddhahood (Ji si thub chhog ma) by His Holiness the First Dalai Lama, Gendun Drub:

May I never again give rise to the mind that,
Giving up sentient beings, hopes for my own self-purpose.
By being expert in the methods, may I voluntarily undertake the works for others,
Unobscured regarding the manner of accomplishing the works for others.

It says: “May the thought that gives up sentient beings and expects my own self-purpose to never arise again,” and, “… not being obscured in the manner of accomplishing the works for others but being expert in the method”—which means the method of benefiting others—“… may I voluntarily undertake the works for others.” Thab la khä pä is the reason: “… being expert in the methods, may I voluntarily undertake the works for others.” We are taking responsibility for them.

Even by expressing just my name or remembering me,
May all those tormented by the results of their negative karmas
Receive the magnificent greatness of perfect happiness,
And be able to climb the steps leading to the supreme vehicle.

“Even by expressing just my name and remembering me, may all those experiencing the results of their negative karmas …”—all the suffering— “… receive the magnificent greatness of perfect happiness.”

“May they be able to climb the steps going to the supreme vehicle,” the Mahayana path.

So, you can see now how the group you are talking to are like children going “Blah, blah, blah,” and creating so much negative karma, like a rain shower. This prayer is the opposite of what they do; they need to understand this.

Lama Tsongkhapa explained in the Prayer for the Beginning, Middle, and End of Practice:

For anyone who constantly has thoughts to harm
My body, life, and enjoyments
And also for those who say unpleasant things about me,
May I develop special love, like that of a mother.1

“Anyone having harmful thoughts all the time to my body, life, and enjoyments, and even those who say uninteresting things to me,” — to those who criticize me—“… may I be able to love them especially, like a mother,” just as she loves her children so much.

So here, I’m asking you people, did Lama Tsongkhapa make a mistake? Are you people more enlightened than Lama Tsongkhapa? According to your way of thinking, Lama Tsongkhapa becomes very foolish. Also, all the other great holy beings from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha down to His Holiness, who liberated numberless sentient beings in the past, are liberating them now in the present and will liberate them in the future and bring them to enlightenment, become as ignorant as a dog and pig, while you people are more enlightened than them. You are the ones who know better. It becomes like that, according to the way you talk and the way you think. I’m sorry to say this, but I have to say it straight.

It’s as if all these holy beings are foolish, almost like dogs and pigs. However, Lama Tsongkhapa not only taught the Buddhadharma, but he completed the practice. Lama Tsongkhapa is famous as learned, strict, pure and good-hearted in Tibet. As it says in the migtsema, Lama Tsongkhapa is the crown ornament of the learned ones in the Snow Land of Tibet:

Tsongkhapa, crown ornament of the sages of the Land of Snow…

In the next verse [from the Prayer for the Beginning, Middle, and End of Practice] Lama Tsongkhapa says:

Without taking much time,
May I generate the pure special attitude in my mental continuum,
The bodhicitta that cherishes others more than myself,
And give them the peerless state of buddhahood.

“Without taking much time, may I generate the bodhicitta that cherishes others more than myself, the special attitude,” means you take the complete responsibility on yourself to liberate every single sentient being from suffering and cause them to achieve happiness and enlightenment.

“May I be able to give them the state of peerless buddhahood,” means the total cessation of obscurations and the completion of realizations.

In the next verse, Lama Tsongkhapa says:

May anyone who hears or sees these prayers,
As well as anyone who remembers them,
Accomplish every single prayer
Of the bodhisattvas without discouragement.

“Anybody who hears, sees, or remembers these prayers, may they not be discouraged from accomplishing every single extensive prayer of the bodhisattvas.” This means that whenever we remember this prayer, we get this benefit from Lama Tsongkhapa, who already dedicated for us to accomplish the extensive prayers of bodhisattvas and to be able to offer extensive benefit to sentient beings.

Verses from the Prayer for the Spreading of Ecumenical Buddha's Teachings, a True Melodious Song of the Sage

In the prayer by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama for the spreading of the four traditions that happened in Tibet, a prayer for the teachings to last a long time and spread in the world, it says at the end:

May my body, enjoyments, and virtues
Become a cause of happiness for all the mother sentient beings.
And may all the sufferings of every single sentient being,
All of them whatsoever, completely ripen on me.

“May my body, enjoyments, and virtues become a cause of happiness for all the mother sentient beings. May all the sufferings of every single sentient being, whatever, all of them, may they be completely ripened on me.”

The next verse by His Holiness says:

May all those who see me, hear me, remember me, or visualize me
Enjoy the magnificence of happiness as they like.
May even those who criticize me, threaten me, beat me or give me a bad reputation
Have the fortune to achieve the path to enlightenment.

“Anyone who sees me, hears me, remembers me or visualizes me, may all the sentient beings enjoy the magnificence of happiness as they like.”

“Anyone who criticizes, threatens me, beats me, announces uninteresting things about me, or gives me a bad reputation,”—even if they do that—“... may they all become fortunate to achieve the path to enlightenment.”

Teaching the Good Heart

Regarding the school, we need to develop the students’ education but not only in the subjects that a normal school has; the real education is the good heart. We need to teach the good heart and the students need to practice the good heart right now. Not in their next life or when they become old, not like that, but right now! It is so important for them to practice the good heart at school with the other students and back home with their parents. That is the most important education.

If they grow up with a good heart, instead of harming others they will offer benefit to others, even to animals. In this way, all their wishes for happiness will succeed more and more, they won’t feel all the problems they experience, and their problems will become less and less. They will have so much happiness in their lives as they grow up.

During this life, they will be able to give happiness to their families and to the people at the school, and later on they will be able to give happiness to everyone and cause them less suffering. Others will get so much happiness from them. That is the real meaning of life—being able to give happiness to others.

Especially when they die, they will have no regrets. Their minds will be very happy and they will have no fear at all. And if they become a leader, such as a minister or president of the country, because they grew up developing a good heart, they will take responsibility for the whole population. However many millions or billions of people there are in the country, they will make an effort to free them from all their problems and suffering and give them happiness.

In this way, people will like them. Everybody will like them very much. If someone has a good heart normally people will like them and want to pray for their success. Everybody wants to help them. Even if they don’t need help, everyone will want to help them. That is normal in the world. Wherever they go, to the city or the countryside, wherever they live, they will bring happiness to people because they have so much good heart. Then, when they become a leader, they will bring unbelievable happiness and peace to the country and to the world.

This is what we should try to achieve. Of course, in their future lives, they will have happiness like the sun shining. In their future lives, things will get better and better, they will be of more and more benefit to others, and all their wishes will succeed. They will have incredible happiness and success in their future lives and they will go to enlightenment.

If there are some teachers in the school who don’t have a good education and who interfere with developing the school, then, with compassion, for the sake of the many children in the school, you may have to dismiss them and find well-educated teachers. You need to do the same in the school as you would for the majority of the people in the country. You may have to do this, otherwise the school cannot get better. It cannot develop. If this happens, there will be problems for all the students. It would not be good if, due to one particular teacher, all the school children didn’t get to improve.

Even if the children and their parents have a poor life, because they have a good heart, their minds will be so happy. That will bring them happiness in their lives, even though they don’t have many material things. His Holiness says that even if we live in a grass house and only have water to drink, if we have a good heart we will be happy. Our life will be so happy.

Of course, in the world, in the Middle East, America and other countries, even those who have a billion, zillion, trillion dollars have unbelievable, unbelievable dissatisfaction. They have so much suffering, more than a beggar. Even though physically they are OK, their dissatisfaction brings a lot of sickness and many problems to their physical bodies as well. This is because they don’t practice the good heart. They don’t practice satisfaction and a happy mind, and they don’t practice patience, contentment and self-discipline. If the self-cherishing thought becomes stronger and stronger, that will make them unhappy throughout their whole life, and, as often happens, when they can’t bear it, they may commit suicide.

If you don’t want to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings, if you don’t want to even be free from samsara and instead you want to suffer continuously in samsara, if you prefer that rather than being free from samsara and you don’t want to achieve a happy rebirth in your next lives, if you want to reincarnate continuously in the lower realms and suffer for numberless eons, if your mind is like this, then I have nothing to say. I have nothing to advise.

So if you don’t want to give up Dharma, if you don’t want to suffer and you want happiness, if you don’t want to give up Dharma, then I’m advising all these things. If you don’t want to practice Dharma, then that’s totally different.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much for understanding this.


from Crazy Zopa


See the FPMT Retreat Prayer Book, (p. 367) for an alternate translation of these verses from the Prayer for the Beginning, Middle, and End of Practice. [Return to text]