Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Advice for Sangha :
Obstacles and Negative Emotions
- Dealing With Negative Emotions
- Dealing with Obstacles
Dealing With Negative Emotions
|A nun wrote to Rinpoche saying she was having a hard time because she was very attracted to someone, and asked what she should do. Rinpoche replied as follows.|
My very dear Chödron,
I received your letter. According to my observations, the best thing for you to do is to go away. It would be good to attend the study course at Kopan Monastery. It is best if you go away for six to eight months. It is not so good to stay where you are living right now. I think Geshe-la will understand my comments because you are a nun. Maybe you can take teachings in the East, do a retreat, pilgrimage, and some service at the centers in the East. This is just a suggestion.
Your vows are the root of your great liberation and enlightenment. Because in your present life you are living according to these vows, it makes it much easier to achieve enlightenment, no question that it is easier to achieve liberation from samsara. Therefore, my suggestion is while the fire is small, it is easy to put out; if it becomes very big, then it is much harder. While it is still very small, like a candle, a match, a spark, control it. If you don’t control it now it can become huge so that you can’t control it at all and then it’s too late.
Similarly, if you continue to stay where you are with the same mind, it will get heavier and heavier, and at the same time you can’t do anything, you can’t control it, and you have to follow it. You will be totally defeated by your delusion, like a flood of water, like a tsunami, or like Hurricane Katrina.
So, my suggestion is maybe to let go. You will have much more peace and happiness in your heart. Wherever you are you will feel peace, real peace, otherwise you won’t have peace, no matter how far you go, no matter the physical distance. Attachment does not bring peace, so no matter where you are, whether you are studying Dharma or on the moon, still you will suffer because your attachment wants to be with him, to have a relationship.
I am not going to take much time now to explain, this is just a drop. These are my suggestions:
Analyze what is the purpose of your life. Think, “I have full responsibility to free countless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, asuras, and intermediate state beings from all sufferings and their causes and to bring all of them to enlightenment. I have full responsibility for this.”
For example, in one city, however many millions of people there are, you have full responsibility to free them from suffering and to bring about their happiness. If you think this way, then you can see how even in one field, there are many millions of sentient beings, and you can see what an incredible responsibility you have. There are so many sentient beings. Others are countless. It is your responsibility to free them from suffering and to bring them to enlightenment, to bring them to liberation and happiness.
This time you have received a precious human rebirth. It is not just precious, but a perfect human rebirth, having the eight qualities, and you have met a virtuous friend, who can show you the whole, unmistaken path. You have met the Buddha’s Dharma, you have all the opportunities to help sentient beings, to learn the Dharma, to actualize the path, to be free from all the delusions (gross and subtle), and to achieve enlightenment. You have the opportunity to be able to perform perfect works for sentient beings, so that in every second, each beam that is emitted from your Buddha body can liberate so many sentient beings from suffering. You have an incredible responsibility to help every single sentient being, not only every single human being, but every single animal, ant, insect, spider, fly, elephant, tiger, and so on.
You have received all your countless past, present, and future liberations from samsara, up to enlightenment, from the kindness of every single hell being, hungry ghost, animal, human being, sura and asura being. For that reason, every comfort and happiness that you experience comes from the kindness of every single sentient being. Therefore, you have full responsibility to free all sentient beings from all sufferings and their causes and to bring them to enlightenment.
Then think that if you are not liberated from samara, if you are still in samsara, having all the delusions, then you can’t liberate others. Like a person without any arms can’t help others from falling down a precipice, can’t pull them up, if you are drowning then you can’t help others who are drowning, or who are stuck in the quagmire. Therefore, you need to be free from delusions, karma, and all wrong concepts.
Without the higher training of morality you can’t achieve the higher training of concentration. Without the higher training of concentration you can’t achieve the higher training of wisdom. Without wisdom you can’t achieve the arya path, the exalted wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, and you can’t cease the delusions. Without that you can’t achieve total liberation from the oceans of samsaric sufferings, you can’t liberate others, you can’t achieve great liberation, you can’t achieve enlightenment, and you can’t perform perfect works for sentient beings. Therefore, in cherishing the “I,” cherishing just one sentient being: yourself, seeking happiness for one person: yourself, you are actually harming others, because you are giving up the most precious countless human beings, hungry ghosts, animals, hell beings, and all other sentient beings. You can see how that is illogical and totally ridiculous.
If you compare yourself to even just one sentient being, you can see from that one sentient being comes all your past, present, and future happiness. Therefore, others are the most precious ones. Immeasurable past happiness came to you from that one being. All one’s future happiness, temporary and ultimate, comes from that one being. One’s liberation from samsara comes from that one being. Achieving vast amounts of qualities, Buddha’s holy body, speech, and mind, so that one can perform perfect works for all sentient beings, comes from that one being. So, that one being is the most precious one. You can see how ridiculous, how mistaken, how foolish it is to give up even one sentient being, from whom all the countless buddhas come, all the buddhas to whom you pray, from where the Dharma comes, and from where the Sangha comes. You can see how precious even one sentient being is. The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha that we take refuge in to stop rebirth in the lower realms (hell realm etc.), to be free from samsara and to achieve enlightenment—all of this comes from this one being. It is impossible to give up even one sentient being. It is impossible to seek happiness for yourself and to give up that sentient being’s happiness.
Analyze renouncing the “I.” As it says in the Guru Puja: “Cherishing the ‘I’ is the door to all suffering and cherishing others is the door to all happiness… etc.” That is the most important practice in your life, the best physician, the best medicine; it stops all pain, brings the best happiness in one’s life, and makes one’s life most meaningful. Thinking in this way, whatever you do becomes most beneficial for others, becomes the cause of happiness for all sentient beings, and the cause of enlightenment.
Meditate on how attachment is a wrong concept; analyze this. Think of the many reasons why it is a wrong concept, a superstitious thought, a cause of all harms and dangers. Think of all the delusions up to now, how one has been in samsara for so long, one has been a hell being, animal, and hungry ghost since beginningless rebirths; all this is due to attachment. This is how attachment has cheated oneself. Try to think about this as much as possible; it should have a deep effect. Practice meditation on the nature of attachment and how it cheats you totally.
Think how the object of your attachment is false, not true. If you analyze in this way, you are using the object of attachment as a meditation to realize the nature of life—how it is suffering. This helps you on the path to liberation and to be able to liberate others.
Please think about these things.
With much love and prayers...
|A nun asked about problems with sexual misconduct. Rinpoche gave the following advice.|
Whenever you see a person, don't think of the skin, just look only at the insides, the bones, skeleton, and flesh, all the dirty things in the stomach. Think that this is nothing new, that you have had this relationship countless times in the past with the same person, and the result was nothing happened, you are still in samsara, suffering, you never got liberated from samsara, and are experiencing suffering samsara without beginning. Think: If I am still attached to this, this suffering samsara will be endless. It will interfere even with achieving liberation from samsara and actualizing the path for that.
It will interfere with achieving enlightenment for sentient beings and thus performing perfect work for sentient beings. Therefore, being attached to this – to that person's body and sexual pleasure – harms and becomes an obstacle to performing perfect work for sentient beings. This is how your attachment harms sentient beings.
This negative karma with this person is due to past negative karma that left a negative imprint on the mind. That negative imprint is experienced now, and that's why this negative karma happened – this breaking of a vow.
Think how harmful this negative imprint is, and that the more one continues that act, the more it will leave negative imprints on one's own mental continuum and cause harm in the future. So, negative imprints cause great harm for one's mind and make it extremely difficult in the future to overcome delusions, and extremely difficult to have realizations of the path to liberation and enlightenment.
|Depression & Purification|
|A young nun was overcome with heavy depression for several months. Rinpoche gave her this advice over the phone.|
Think, “This is purification.” When we experience depression and suffering, it is the result of negative karma. You can think that the negative karma is being purified in this life, instead of being experienced as many eons of suffering in the hell realms. So, the suffering now is very short, compared to being born in the hell realms.
There are different levels of purification. Because of the power of their bodhicitta, the negative karma of bodhisattvas is purified through being criticized by others, through bad dreams, and so forth. Their heavy negative karma – karma that would cause one to be born in the lower realms – is purified in this way. The arising of anger and heresy toward the guru might cause this depression. I can’t really say exactly whether it is karma from a past life or from this life.
Think that the purification you are experiencing comes from offering service to the guru or to other sentient beings with a sincere heart. Very powerful purification comes from this. Please remember this and think about it. You can write it down and put it in your room. Even negative karma can be purified by offering service with devotion, and through confession.
Then think, “I am experiencing this depression on behalf of so many sentient beings, who have depression now and who will be depressed in the future. I experience it myself, so that they may have all happiness up to enlightenment. How happy I am!”
Also, think that your depression is not only yours, but all other sentient beings’ depression. From time to time, take on depression from all living beings and absorb this depression into your self-cherishing thought. That thought then becomes completely non-existent.
One thing to think about is that your negative karma may be purified in the form of depression. Your past negative karma may come from the ten non-virtues. It may also come from when you made someone unhappy or the guru unhappy. This can be the cause of depression.
Because of Tilopa’s skill, Naropa experienced all sorts of hardships, then afterward he became pure. When your mind goes into depression, remember Buddha nature. Anybody can be purified. One’s karma can be purified, and one can be enlightened. Even if they have committed the heaviest negative karma, all sentient beings can be enlightened.
The ultimate nature of the mind is pure. There are only temporary obscurations. These occur due to causes and conditions. That is why one can be enlightened by causes and conditions. Everything can be fixed; one can be enlightened. Why? Because of Buddha nature. There is no choice – when the causes and conditions come together, one can be enlightened. Remember Milarepa.
Keep your mind on what I have said. You are young. There is so much you can do. These are the benefits of the philosophy of using depression to eliminate the self-cherishing thought. Make prayers to have bodhicitta and achieve enlightenment for all sentient beings. You can think, “By experiencing this depression, may it become the cause of happiness for many sentient beings.”
|Loneliness and Depression|
|A young nun was suffering from depression and loneliness. She was in retreat and all she could do was cry. Even though she knew she had a positive situation and future, still she was very depressed.|
I read your fax. I understand. Your depression and feeling miserable about samsara is some kind of understanding of reality. This is positive. But now you have to use that understanding to develop compassion. You must try to do this. Your mind trying to escape this reality is what we all try to do naturally. I suggest you read my book, The Door to Satisfaction. This will help you to focus on the essence of things.
You really don’t need to be depressed. You need to understand the correct way to think about what you are experiencing. [See the Advice Book section on Depression.]
If there is anything else I can do, if I can offer any help any time, please let me know. You should be unbelievably happy. Being a nun will make for a good future. It will be easy to be reborn in a pure land. Living purely according to your vows will make it easy to achieve realizations.
Having the opportunity to serve Geshe-la is also the most powerful purification practice. Serving Geshe-la for one month is like doing Vajrasattva retreat for 1,000 years. Even cleaning Geshe-la’s room one time or offering tea once is more powerful than serving all the buddhas and bodhisattvas in the ten directions. For this reason, serving the virtuous friend is the quickest and easiest way to achieve enlightenment.
You need to do guru devotion meditation every day, for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or half an hour. You can do this along with six-session guru yoga or with Lama Tsongkhapa guru yoga. Before the guru dissolves into you, practice lam-rim meditation to achieve the whole path to enlightenment. It is good to do this not only when you are in meditation, but also during break time.
Then, you can also think about death and impermanence every day, every hour, every minute. After waking up in the morning and rejoicing that you are still alive, that you still have this precious human body, make the decision that today is the day you are going to die, and think of the suffering of the lower realms, of the beings suffering in hell. Then you can make a strong decision to practice bodhicitta, listen to teachings, study, and especially try to develop bodhicitta.
This is my advice connected with your problem. If you don’t think that death will happen today, then your dissatisfaction, depression, and loneliness will always be there. Please rejoice in the incredible opportunity you have to study Dharma and to be of service to Geshe-la.
When dealing with the experiences of karma, such as depression, the first thing is to see that it is purification. Instead of experiencing the heavy sufferings of the lower realms for eons, those past life heavy karmas are purified by manifesting as very small problems in this life, for example in the form of depression. Compared to the sufferings of the hell realms, even the lightest realm, the first hot hell, this suffering of depression is nothing. Human problems are nothing. Even all the human problems put together are nothing. Experiencing them means you don’t have to experience the suffering of the lower realms, the hell realms. You are so fortunate to be free from that.
Look at that as a great success. This is purification, because not only are you doing other practices, and living as a nun, but you are experiencing the most powerful purification that comes from service to the guru. Instead of feeling down, looking at the situation positively makes you feel happy. It brings you up. That is one very good psychological method. Accepting depression is also good. You can think, “I have created various heavy negative karmas in the past.”
As is mentioned in the sutra by the Buddha on the shortcomings of not practicing the five lay vows or breaking the vows while living according to them, the result of engaging in sexual misconduct is that when the evening comes, one’s mind suddenly becomes unhappy and depressed. That also applies to feeling depressed without any particular reason. Although it is not specifically mentioned in the sutra, the same applies when the mind is unhappy in the morning, on waking up. Also, you might experience that when the mind is very happy, it can change suddenly, like the weather. First there is sunshine and then again it is obscured. Accepting depression in this way always helps. You can think, “Oh, I deserve to experience this because of so many negative karmas committed in the past.”
When the depression comes, make a very strong effort to think, “I’m experiencing this depression on behalf of all sentient beings. I have taken on the depression of all sentient beings, and I am letting them have all my happiness.”
If you are able to think like this, it definitely transforms your mind and brings happiness. You need to put a lot of effort into it at that time. You can’t expect this to happen naturally. You have to make a big effort, because when the mind is unhappy, there is no courage to practice.
Each time you think, “I’m experiencing this unhappiness for all sentient beings,” you collect so much merit and the experience becomes incredible purification. So much negative karma and so many obstacles to achieving realizations and enlightenment are purified. Each time you do this, the depression brings you closer to enlightenment. [See the Advice Book section on Transforming Problems.]
Another thing you can do is read the Wheel of Sharp Weapons from time to time. The essence of this is turning the sharp weapon of karma – which is created by the self-cherishing thought, thinking of oneself – against the ego that initiated this depression, that gave you this. This time you turn it on the ego, cut the ego, and make the ego totally non-existent. This is extremely powerful.
Another suggestion is to analyze the evolution of the depression. A lot of purification is needed to purify the cause of depression. Otherwise, one will continue on with it from life to life. I suggest doing 100,000 Dorje Khadro offering/burning practices. This is a very powerful purification practice that Manjushri gave to Lama Tsongkhapa.
It may also be useful to check what other methods people in the West use to help those dealing with depression. Ask people with lots of experience what different ways there are to help with this kind of depression. It may be good to find that out.
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a monk who was having difficulties dealing with problems of attachment and desire.|
The first method is to keep your distance when your mind is weak. Otherwise, if you do anything physically, this can cause you to damage your vows and your liberation. In such a situation, any action can bring danger.
After separating yourself from the object, continue with this next method, using psychology to give the mind some support and strength. Otherwise, if you have only separated yourself physically, the mind will still suffer. Therefore, strengthen your mind and encourage yourself. Think like this:
1) It is only this one time that I have this precious human rebirth. It is only this one time that I can achieve enlightenment, a good rebirth, and be able to enlighten so many sentient beings.
2) My attachment wants to destroy this opportunity. It wants to prevent me from enlightening sentient beings, from achieving all realizations, from achieving liberation from samsara, and even from achieving a good rebirth in my next life. It is destroying my happiness.
3) Reflect on this quotation from the Vinaya:
Craving for small pleasure
Cannot achieve great pleasure.
Craving for small pleasure makes it impossible to achieve great pleasure.
Renounce the happiness that produces suffering; cherish the happiness that comes from suffering.
Make a strong determination, thinking, “I will bear these hardships now in order to actualize good morality; then later I will be able to achieve enlightenment.”
4) Attachment obscures the mind and blocks our realization of emptiness. Not only does it create negative karma, such as the ten non-virtuous actions, it leads us to break the three sets of vows, beginning with the Pratimoksha vows, which are the foundation, the ground, the earth from which liberation comes. It leads to breaking of the bodhisattva and tantric vows, which allow us to achieve enlightenment quickly.
Attachment cannot cut the root of samsara. Due to attachment, we will abide in samsara, suffering endlessly. Therefore, we must win over our delusions and defeat our enemy, which is attachment.
Attachment keeps us in samsara and has kept us in it from time without beginning. Attachment leaves us suffering in the six realms of suffering.
Meditating on renunciation may not be enough for you to completely let go. But it does help you keep some distance mentally. With renunciation, even when you are physically close together with an object of attachment, you don’t let your mind be attached. You keep some mental distance.
Reflect on impermanence. Think, “If I die now with this mind, due to my negative karma, I will be reborn in a lower realm. Death can happen any time, therefore this attachment doesn’t make any sense. It is torturing me.”
5) Attachment is like a cannibal, like honey on a sword. It looks as if it will help you but, in fact, it only cheats and destroys you. If you see an object of attachment, such as a beautiful person, who you feel attracted to, you believe that he or she is there, but actually they are not there. It is your own mind. It looks as if the person is there, but he or she is not. Due to your own hallucination, as in a dream or a movie, you project a real person, but there is no such thing there. You are attached to that projection, believing 100 percent that there is something real there that you can have. But this doesn’t exist. It’s merely a projection of our ignorant minds, believing in the inherently existing body and person.
Even what is called “man” or “woman”—a merely-labeled beautiful body—even that is projected and merely labeled by our minds. We project that it is there on that base, but it is not there on that base. The person, the beautiful body, is not existing from there, from its own side. What we are attached to is our own view, the hallucination that comes from our own mind. Beyond the skin that is cheating us, there is nothing to be attached to, nothing interesting. There is no essence, no meaning whatsoever. The skin is also a collection of cells. When you look through a magnifying glass or microscope, you see it is just pieces put together.
The person is like a cannibal, at first acting nicely, but later there is no escape from them. He or she completely captures you, then eats you up. Think of the person as a poisonous snake or honey on a sword, as the enemy who brings you down to the hell realms, who causes you to engage in actions which displease all the holy beings.
Always keep in mind that your enemy is the one who smiles at you, praises you, who shows affection to you. Your real enemy is that person. However, you can still remain friends with that person, and don’t get angry at him or her.
|Advice to a Western Monk
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a young western monk who was studying in a monastery in India.|
My very dear Laurence,
How are you? Are things going better now? Are you feeling freer, better, healthier, more enlightened?
From my observations, analyzing what I have heard about the way you have been thinking, your concerns, and what you have been saying, such as, “I am lonely; there is nobody here who loves me”, all of these words and concerns, in my view, are based on western culture and people around you who are saying these things.
Maybe you are not analyzing western culture at the monastery, but western culture is based on the “I,” on thinking that my needs are the most important, and that you should feel pride. Those things are regarded as very good in western culture. Western culture is based on advertising the self as much as possible. Even in western psychological methods, there is no mention of compassion for others. You never hear this unless western psychology is mixed with Dharma, otherwise there is no mention of other people’s needs or happiness. There is only talk of one’s own happiness; everything is based on that and it doesn’t matter at all about other people.
The first quality for people practicing Mahayana teachings is that you are doing it for others. You achieve enlightenment for others, to free countless sentient beings from all the sufferings and causes, and bring them to enlightenment. To do this perfect work you need to know all sentient beings’ minds, karma, characteristics, wishes, and all methods that fit them. It is only Buddha’s holy, omniscient mind that can do that.
Therefore, one needs to become omniscient, which means one needs to become Buddha. So, you can see the reason for becoming Buddha, and how this is most urgently needed by others. You need to have all the qualities of a buddha to benefit others, not just for your own happiness.
From my observations, what you are thinking and saying is all connected with western culture and attitudes. If every sentient being followed these things, then there would be no Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and there would be no buddhas. Then, there wouldn’t be any Buddha to guide us, to teach the path, liberate sentient beings from the lower realms, from samsaric sufferings, the hallucinated defilements, and the deep ignorance which has no beginning.
Buddha gave up the self-cherishing thought, thinking only of one’s own happiness, one’s needs, that “I am the most important person in the world.” He gave up these thoughts, let go of them, cherished others, and put all his effort into that.
Buddha was an ordinary being before, like us, with all the delusions and karma, negative emotional mind, and sufferings, but then he put so much effort into cherishing all sentient beings, collecting merit, and purifying negative karma. Buddha collected merit by sacrificing his body, giving up his whole family and possessions, etc. Buddha made charity to so many sentient beings. For example, in Nepal, at Namo Buddha, Buddha gave up his holy body to the starving tigress and her five cubs. Also, he offered his eyes to the blind. He practiced charity, patience, perseverance, morality, concentration, and wisdom for three countless great eons. Then, he completed the two types of merit: of wisdom and virtue, achieved the omniscient, fully awakened mind, and revealed Dharma to us.
That is why we have the incredible fortune in this life to be in this world where Buddha’s teachings exist, where every day we come closer to liberation and the total cessation of samsaric sufferings, which are caused by karma and delusion. Not only that, but each day we come closer to perfect happiness, full enlightenment, and complete bliss.
This means that each day we come closer to liberating so many sentient beings from samsaric suffering and bringing them to enlightenment. Every day, each time we meditate on bodhicitta, meditate on emptiness, recite prayers of emptiness and bodhicitta, including renunciation, especially practice tantra, which purifies so many eons of negative karma, we collect vast amounts of merit.
For example, reciting Buddha’s name mantra or reciting Vajrasattva mantra, OM VAJRASATTVA HUM, 28 times has the power to stop any non-virtue that has been created today, which if not purified can double by the second day, and triple by the third day, and so on. If one negative karma created today is not purified, that small negative karma can become the size of a mountain, or the size of the earth, so heavy, and when you die, because of this one negative karma, you can be born in the lower realms and for countless eons have to wander and suffer in the lower realms.
Just one negative karma can multiply day by day and increase until it becomes the size of the earth, but Vajrasattva can purify today’s negative karma, prevent it from increasing, which means you don’t have to experience the result, which is suffering. Instead, you may experience some pain or problem in this life, instead of suffering for eons in the lower realms, depending on how powerful your practice of purification is.
Also, reciting the name of the first Buddha from the 35 Buddhas of Confession just one time has the power to purify 80,000 eons of negative karma. Reciting each name of the 35 Buddhas has the power to purify so many eons of negative karma, not just created today but created for eons. So, Buddha made it is so easy for us to purify negative karma, no matter how heavy it is.
Before Guru Shakyamuni became Buddha he was a bodhisattva; before he was a bodhisattva he generated bodhicitta, and before that he generated great compassion, which was for us sentient beings. That is why we receive so much benefit from reciting the Buddha’s name, and it so easy for us to be liberated, no matter how much heavy karma we have. It is so easy to be liberated from the lower realms, from samsaric suffering which is beginningless, because Buddha explained so clearly the whole path to enlightenment (also other great masters such as Lama Tsongkhapa—who made it so clear). All of this comes from bodhicitta, which came from great compassion, which was generated for us sentient beings.
That is why every hour, every minute, so many sentient beings achieve enlightenment from the Buddha’s teachings, through Buddha’s help, because of Buddha’s omniscient mind, perfect power, and especially because of Buddha’s perfect compassion for all living beings, which saves sentient beings now and in the future and leads all sentient beings to enlightenment. If Buddha had not transformed his mind before, when he was an ordinary being, if he had thought like us, thinking, “I am the most important person; my needs are most important; my happiness is most important, etc.,” then nobody would have become enlightened, there would be no Buddha Dharma now, no amazing opportunity to achieve happiness. So, please think of this.
Not only Guru Shakyamuni Buddha did this, but numberless buddhas. When they were ordinary beings, they transformed their minds into bodhicitta, cherishing others, the non-ego, became enlightened, and benefited so many sentient beings.
Some people think helping others is just providing housing, medicines, and food, etc., but this doesn’t do anything with delusions and karma (which are the cause of suffering). From their side, some beings may not have created the karma to get shelter and help and even if you give them food etc. there are obstacles and they don’t receive it. It is like in Africa—people send food but it is taken away and the poor people hardly get anything, maybe only something very, very small.
You have to think whether you really want to liberate sentient beings from the causes of suffering—delusion and karma. You can only eliminate the defilements by actualizing the path shown by Buddha, the Four Noble Truths, the lesser vehicle Hinayana teachings, on that basis the Mahayana practice, bodhicitta, the 10 bhumis, six paramitas, etc., then the tantric path, which frees sentient beings from all sufferings quickly, by eliminating delusion and karma and helping them to achieve enlightenment quickly.
How can you achieve that? You have to listen to the teachings more extensively. How do you do that? You learn through debate, which is Lama Tsongkhapa’s special way of learning very clearly and extensively, to have an unshakable, unmistaken understanding, then no one can cheat you by giving you wrong explanations.
If Buddha had not transformed his mind when he was an ordinary being, then no one would be enlightened. Lama Tsongkhapa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama wouldn’t be benefiting the world, like the sun shining, bringing so much peace and happiness, helping so many people to have realizations of the Three Principles of the Path and particularly tantra.
In this way, you can show the path to liberation and enlightenment. You can show this in an extensive way to those who can learn, as the middle way to those who can’t, and as the essence to those who have a lot of ignorance.
If you want to learn the meaning of life, you need to know, especially, the lam-rim teachings, and philosophical subjects very well. The lam-rim is the essence of the Buddha’s 84,000 teachings and explains to us what is the purpose of our life, what is to be practiced and what is to abandoned. This is the first level of teachings in the lam-rim.
If you travel around and meet only non-Buddhists who don’t know the lam-rim, you won’t find any answers to the meaning of life. Most people’s purpose or meaning of life is to enjoy life by following the selfish mind, doing whatever they want. But you can’t do whatever you want in the world, it would be crazy, you would get into trouble if you did whatever the mind thought. It would make others upset, angry; it would become like a fire burning in the city or mountains. Most people’s motivation for life is delusion, attachment, and anger, not only the self-cherishing thought. In the West, people do not know Dharma, do not know what the mind really is, not even the correct words in order to explain it. Even if you know only a little you can illuminate the world. Therefore, I think it is very important to have a Dharma education in a monastery.
You just need some patience and to think of others. Otherwise, you might end up just an ordinary guy spending your life in nightclubs and on your motorcycle. An ordinary guy is not very helpful for bringing peace to the world. Later, if you meet a woman who wants children then that is it, your life is finished. You are caught like drowning in quicksand and you can’t get out.
I think you have already seen enough suffering people in this life. In the west, couples have so much suffering, no real peace. Even if they live together they are dissatisfied, unhappy, always fighting, always living in fear of losing their friend, afraid to be separated, with so much suffering every day, with a whole pack of negative emotional thoughts. There is no happiness, no peace, and one can’t meditate, can’t relax the mind.
If you compare the enjoyments of western life to the deva realms, no matter how much wealth or how many pleasures you have, it is nothing compared to the devas. The devas see the human realm as a filthy, dirty place, with lots of sickness and suffering. The devas have billions of times greater pleasures than those in the human realm. When the result of past good karma is finished then they have to again be reborn in the lower realms and circle around in samsara.
The devas believe that theirs is real pleasure, but it is a total hallucination. They are totally ignorant, not understanding it is suffering. Their mind labels something “pleasure” and they believe in that, and then it appears as pleasure. Then they get attached to that and that leads to samsara, and again and again they are reborn in samsara, with all its sufferings.
So, there is no new experience; you have experienced everything so many times before. Where is the interest then? This is like a prison. Also, it is a complete hallucination. You believe suffering is pleasure, but you don’t have it forever, it stops when your karma finishes.
The beings in the form realm see the desire realm as full of suffering, that it is such a short life and the pleasures are only suffering. Even what we think is the greatest pleasure the form realm beings see as suffering, disgusting, they don’t find it attractive even for one second.
Then, the beings in the formless realm see the form realm as extremely gross and only in the nature of suffering. They have no attraction to it even for one second. They find it totally disgusting. This is why they are born in the formless realm (because they have renounced the desire realm and form realm).
The formless realm has four states:
1- Infinite sky
2- Infinite consciousness
4- Tip of samsara.
The Tip of Samsara consciousness sees the other three formless realms, but because there is no higher realm to compare to then it is difficult to realize how the Tip of Samara is in the nature of suffering. Then, because one can’t generate renunciation for that, one can’t enter the path. Therefore, one does not have the realization of wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, and can’t eliminate the seed of delusion. When the karma finishes, the being in the highest realm of samsara has to be reborn in the lower realms.
So, you can see there is nothing interesting in the entire existence of samsara. It is just a prison. We have been circling around in this for time without beginning. In samsara we have had every pleasure countless times in the past. Because we don’t have clairvoyance we don’t remember it. Also, we have had all the sufferings so many times. Therefore, the only thing to do is to achieve the path, the causes of total liberation from all sufferings and their causes. Not only that, we must achieve enlightenment so we can enlighten other sentient beings, who are countless and who are suffering. That is the ultimate goal of life.
Because you are a monk practicing morality, which is the basis of one’s whole attitude, this makes it very easy to achieve the path to enlightenment. Living in ordination is a great blessing for people and the whole world; it is an incredible source of inspiration to others. When they see you as a monk it plants the seed of liberation in their minds. When they see you as a layperson, you don’t give that benefit to others. When, as a monk, you start to teach, then so many others receive benefit. When you are a monk, others respect you, and through that they create good karma, and from that good karma they receive happiness. Also, when others make offerings to you, they are making offerings to a monk living in ordination. They create merit and achieve happiness from that.
In the past, in India, a very poor person offered medicinal drink to four monks. In his next life the poor person was reborn as a powerful king. That small good karma of making an offering to four monks had a very powerful result. He experienced very good karma and the result was happiness for hundreds and thousands of lifetimes. Similarly, negative karma can also be experienced like that, but the result is suffering.
If you are a monk, even if you don’t teach Dharma, but you live in the vows, then this is still very beneficial for sentient beings. You inspire them to collect virtue, practice Dharma, and learn Dharma. You draw and attract them to practicing morality. From that they receive a good rebirth in their next life and ultimately liberation from samsara and enlightenment, by realizing the path.
Even whatever little you have learned already can be of so much benefit. If you spend a few more years learning the philosophical teachings, such as Madhyamika and Abhisamaya, then you can be of so much benefit through teaching others. Many people have university degrees but they are unable to find a job. If you know Dharma then you can teach all over the world, even if what you have learned is only a little. You can bring so much peace and happiness all over the world. What else is better in your life than this?
Maybe you have been influenced by some naughty monks in the monastery. The monastery doesn’t just have that aspect; there are many pure, good monks there too. Generally, where there are very good people there are also some bad people; it’s natural.
Take good inspiring examples, people with pure morality and humility, and be respectful to everyone in the monastery. Take the good examples and leave the bad, those who are harmful to you and do not help you have a healthy mind or virtuous life.
Be respectful to all the monks, thinking they have other good qualities that I don’t have or they could be bodhisattvas. You can’t judge a person from the outside because Buddha manifests as ghosts, spirits, butchers, prostitutes, the poor, the rich, animals, etc. Even bodhisattvas can manifest in any form that is beneficial for sentient beings. Buddhas manifest as blind people, even though they are not blind, but ordinary people do not realize. They manifest as not having limbs, as crazy people, as having ignorance, as having attachment, as having anger, even though they have none of these qualities, but ordinary people do not realize. This is according to bodhisattvas’ practice.
If you respect the monks, look at them as positive, then at that moment you create good karma and do not create negative karma, especially if they are holy beings. Then, you create a lot of good karma. This makes everybody happy and makes you happy. Even in the ordinary world you should look at beings with respect and in a positive way, but it doesn’t mean that you have to do what they do, that which is harmful action.
You are at the monastery to learn Dharma, to develop yourself, and to practice. It doesn’t matter what others do. It is your responsibility to learn Dharma, to study well, and listen well. This is the best way to collect the most merit and achieve the most powerful purification practice. It is the quickest and easiest way to enlightenment. From that comes all success, the greatest, quickest realizations of Dharma, and you are able to benefit so many sentient beings. There is only one sun but it illuminates the whole world. It is like that.
To look at other monks and criticize them is not why you are in the monastery, not the purpose of your life. Take the good example of others, their good conduct, and leave the negative things.
With much love and prayers...
More talks by Lama Zopa on this topic:
See Rinpoche's advice related to Emotions in the Advice Book.
More talks by Lama Zopa on this topic: