Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Dharma Organization Work :
Dharma and the Arts
|Thanks to an Artist|
|A student was inspired by a photo of Rinpoche turning a prayer wheel with his right hand after manifesting a stroke. He saw this as a great teaching on joyful effort. He does the Daily Purification: A Short Vajrasattva Practice, every morning. He asked Rinpoche about the father’s six and the mother’s five mudras and also sent him a White Tara picture he had made.|
My very dear Jim,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I am very, very happy and billions of thanks that you started Vajrasattva practice after you saw my book. Thank you.
Regarding your question, if you have received a highest yoga tantric initiation then I can send a picture of the father’s six mudras and the mother’s five. These signify the path. Thank you very, very much.
Also thank you very, very much for the beautiful Tara. Thanks that you did it for Geshe-la’s long life, it is a very, very nice drawing. Right now I am near a small FPMT center. There is a lady who is a good artist here and I will ask her to make the eyes more elaborate and maybe paint the body. But what you made is a very, very good example. I have put it up in my room, right in front of me near my bed.
I wanted to ask you, would you be happy to paint another two pictures for me? If so, would you paint White Tara and Amitabha and send them to me? I would like that very much.
With much love and prayers...
|Dharma and Music
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a well-known singer on combining Dharma with songs.|
My very dear Joan,
I first of all want to express great thanks for your kind heart and the services you have done to fulfill my wishes and to serve the teachings of Buddha, which is the only source of peace and happiness for all sentient beings. It is also the only medicine to cure all the sufferings of sentient beings, including the causes of those sufferings. By making offerings to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to the Dharma Center, you have greatly benefited sentient beings.
There is a very precious condensed teaching on how to deal with life’s daily problems. It is not just to stop problems, but to utilize them on the path to actualize full enlightenment. This means the cessation of all the mistakes of mind, including gross and subtle defilements, as well as the cessation of all sufferings. It is the completion of all the realizations of all qualities and also understanding what is beneficial for oneself to achieve, namely to free all sentient beings from suffering and bring peerless happiness, complete bliss, and total peace to all. This is the ultimate goal of life, the purpose of our surviving every day, every minute, every second. That means during every second of our life, our purpose is infinite, like the sky. Therefore, since this is the meaning of our lives, we need to direct our lives toward that goal by living in that way in each second. This is done is by using the problems and difficulties in life to develop the two bodhicittas. The two bodhicittas are: 1) developing compassion and cherishing sentient beings, and 2) the wisdom realizing emptiness, using problems to practice awareness of the nature of phenomena – that which is empty. This is achieved by recognizing the false view of reality that we hold onto in our daily lives.
You should read a very important meditation text called Eight Stanzas of Thought Transformation and see if you can make a song either of all eight stanzas or of one. There are other teachings that I believe you could make songs from, such as teachings that express how sentient beings are so precious and kind to you in your life. They can be very important songs that make other people feel loving kindness simply by wishing them happiness. Songs on loving kindness and compassion are extremely beneficial, and so are songs on emptiness, the ultimate nature of phenomena, which talk about the false view and the reality of life. These are very important songs because they can directly pacify and curb emotional problems, depression, unhappiness, and so forth, by developing loving kindness, compassion, and bodhicitta toward others. So, this is one way you can transform these problems into happiness and then use that happiness to achieve satisfaction and fulfillment in your own heart.
It would be good if you could read Dharma books and attend Buddhist teachings. Then you can make very beneficial songs that benefit so many millions of minds by developing loving kindness and compassion in others’ hearts. This is what you can do. You have the opportunity because of your ability with singing and because of your fame. You have the opportunity to use these to give wisdom, to open the Dharma wisdom eye, which sees what is right, to practice, and what is wrong, to be abandoned, in order to develop a good heart in the minds of many millions of people.
This means you are able to bring so much peace and happiness, all the way to enlightenment, to them. Not only can each person develop a good heart from your example, but each of these people can also bring so much happiness, up until enlightenment, to all other beings. So, through your songs and fame you become the source of peace and happiness up until enlightenment, including peace and happiness in this life and satisfaction and fulfillment, which is what so many people in this world are hungry for. Sentient beings are looking for this every second, including ants and other small insects that keep so busy for this purpose, to find happiness. So, you become the source of so many living beings’ future happiness, their long term happiness, and then also the cause of their ultimate happiness (liberation from all suffering and its causes), enlightenment.
Later, you could give talks on Dharma meditation and also teach, after you have done some study, meditation practice, and retreat. That will make all your efforts in singing songs since childhood until now and developing your skill and fame become extremely meaningful. You have the potential to bring so many beings to the right path, the unmistaken path to happiness, liberation, and enlightenment. That means so many sentient beings can achieve so much peace and happiness, up until enlightenment, from you. You have the responsibility to cause this.
|Prayers Before Singing
|Rinpoche sent the following advice to a well-known singer.|
My very dear Corinne,
How are you? I was very happy to meet you and also to help you in your work. I didn’t have enough time to correct the prayer for your song, but I have asked someone to do it for me. I have many ideas for different prayers that explain how to deal with people’s various problems and difficulties. These will then make your songs have the greatest effect on and benefit for sentient beings, to help them solve their problems, emotional and psychological, and ultimately bring them to enlightenment, because what you are singing is Dharma, the teachings of Buddha, the unmistaken path to enlightenment. Because the subject is Dharma, all the people who come to your concerts or hear your music are liberated from samsaric suffering and your music brings them to enlightenment.
When you sing it would be very good if you can pray beforehand like this:
Due to all the past, present, and future merits collected by me and by all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, just by seeing me, touching me, remembering me, hearing my voice, dreaming of me, harming me, helping me, through whatever connection people make with me, even if somebody makes fun of me – may it become the cause for them never to be reborn in suffering realms (hell, hungry ghost, or animal realms); may they immediately be liberated from all sickness, spirit harm, negative karma, and defilements; and may they immediately find the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, as well as faith in refuge, karma, and the Buddha’s teachings. May they achieve bodhicitta in their hearts instantly, may all their wishes be fulfilled, may they achieve all happiness, and may they achieve enlightenment quickly by completing the whole path.
If you make this prayer every day, it becomes a very powerful way to affect other sentient beings and your whole life becomes very beneficial.
With much love and prayers...
|Benefits of Music
|Rinpoche mentioned the following benefits of making music.|
Music can bring so much joy and happiness to people, especially if it’s performed with a good motivation. Also, if one is able to play purely to bring joy to others then one becomes less attached to music being “my music.” In that way, you don’t break vows or create negative karma. Also, you can visualize when you play music that you are offering clouds of music to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions who are in essence your own root guru. In this way, you not only bring the music of bodhicitta to all the listeners, through your good motivation, but you also create vast amounts of merit by offering to your guru, who is in essence all of the buddhas.
|Writing Books on Meditation
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a student who does healing work, and teaches yoga and meditation. The advice concerned her plan to write books on meditation for children.|
Use as a basis the Ten Divine Dharmas, with my commentary, together with the four ways to make life most meaningful: kindness, forgiveness, rejoicing, and tolerance. Then, on the basis of these, use your own wisdom. On that basis, however many billions of books you write, they will be extremely beneficial and worthwhile. They will bring peace to children, the world, and sentient beings. Through this, all their wishes will be fulfilled.
By fulfilling other’s wishes, your wishes are fulfilled. This is Dharma/spiritual politics. By harming others, then we receive harm. By benefiting others, then we will receive benefit. From that basis, strive to have a better life and to develop more qualities. If you have realizations, and a healthy body, you can offer deeper service to others.
By controlling your mind, then you can use your body and mind to benefit other sentient beings. Your mind is under your control. With this, you can free sentient beings from samsaric suffering. Otherwise, there will be a lot of obstacles, even to fulfilling your own happiness, and even more to fulfilling others’ happiness, especially ultimate happiness.
The more you have love and compassion, then the wealthier you become, and the more you can give to others. Even though the result is your own happiness, you don’t have to have a selfish motivation. It works that way because that is the natural law of action. It is like planting a seed. When you have planted a seed, and all the conditions are present, then even if you pray for the seed to not grow, still it will grow. Likewise, you will receive happiness, even though you don’t wish it, because it is a dependent arising. When the causes and conditions are there, then the result comes.
The more pure you become, the more highly attained you become, the more you can offer service to others. When you are enlightened, then you make no mistakes, and you can offer perfect service to sentient beings. With time you can become a perfect guide.
|Creating Buddha Images
|Rinpoche gave the following advice on using artistic skills to paint Buddha images.|
John has so much talent in art he should use it to benefit many beings. If he paints a buddha image and just one person sees that holy image, that person creates an incredible amount of merit. It is equal to making offerings to the thousands of arhants (self-realizers) who have realized emptiness in universes equal in number to the grains of sand in the Pacific Ocean. An incredible amount of merit is created just by seeing that Buddha image. Normally it would take eons to create so much merit.
He would create the merit of offering 100 devas’ precious jewels and 100 devas’ cloths every day. Normally, it would take eons to make that many offerings. Merit is the cause of happiness in the future—you can get anything you want from it—it’s so profitable. By painting Buddha images that sentient beings can see, he is giving sentient beings an incredible opportunity. He is making his life so worthwhile. Just creating art to make money is a waste. Each time any being sees a buddha image he or she creates so much merit to realize the path of merit, realizations, liberation, and enlightenment.
Just by seeing one statue or photo of Buddha, you create more merit than those eons of merit that I explained. Even a being who doesn’t believe in the Dharma who sees the image receives incredible amounts of merit.
If you make prostrations and offerings to the images, it strengthens your faith and devotion. Also, remember the eight benefits of putting your palms together when seeing a holy image; it creates so many causes of happiness, even if you only do it once.
Art and Dharma
A student asked Rinpoche how to integrate art with Dharma practice.
The first thing to think about is one’s attitude. The purpose of making the painting or of creating any work of art should only be to benefit others. One should do the artwork to pacify all one’s wrong concepts and disturbing emotional thoughts. While creating, one should keep a motivation of purifying negative karma and actualizing the good heart, loving kindness, bodhicitta, and, in fact, the whole path to enlightenment. By transforming one’s attitude into Dharma, one integrates one’s art with Dharma.
The second thing is the art itself. One should make objects that have a spiritual meaning. One can represent bodhisattvas’ life stories or the Buddha’s life story, showing how they practiced patience and perseverance for the happiness of other sentient beings. One could paint the life stories of great holy beings and present the ways they sacrificed their lives for other sentient beings by practicing renunciation, bodhicitta, and emptiness. One could show how they were always aware of karma. One could use art to show how happiness results from good actions and suffering from negative actions. In this way, making such paintings, for example, which carry a beneficial meaning, is the integration of art with Dharma.
To put this integration into practice, at the beginning of every day, one should pray like this: Due to all my past and future merits, may anyone who sees, touches, or remembers this painting (or other object) never be born in the lower realms. May all disturbing spirit harms and obscurations be purified. May they achieve enlightenment as soon as possible by actualizing the whole path and may they have joy and happiness in their hearts.
Since everything has to do with the power of the mind—enlightenment, hell, liberation, samsara, everything—if one generates the strong thought of benefiting others, as the mind becomes stronger, this thought will cause it to happen.