Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Family & Relationship :
Rinpoche gave the following advice to a young woman who had met a new man and was considering pursuing a relationship with him. She had expressed concern that the relationship might prove harmful in some way.
My suggestion is to try being with him for four months and check during that time. It is not necessary to have a fixed amount of time, that is just my suggestion.
I thought you already knew samsara and had experienced it. But whether you are a nun or a layperson, the most important thing is always to live life with bodhicitta and, if possible, with wisdom.
You said you were concerned that this relationship might cause harm to you or him. It is natural to hurt each other if your motivation is only attachment or the self-cherishing thought.
|Relationship and Health Obstacles
Rinpoche sent the following advice to a student who was experiencing many obstacles to her relationship and also her health.
My very dear Norma,
As far as your relationship is concerned, it seems better to be with him, but don't grasp that you will be with him forever or that he will be with you. If you have the wrong concept of permanence in your heart, you will experience torment and big problems in the future. Of course, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't have loving kindness for him, because you want happiness and he wants happiness. A couple, a family, and the whole world live by depending on the kindness of each other. Of course, there are some countries that are giving harm but countries also support each other.
The proper attitude is not that he is for your happiness but that you are for his happiness. You are there to serve him. Of course, your attitude is not only that but to serve all sentient beings. When you think that you are there for him, so many expectations stop, they don't arise. If you don't think like this you experience so much worry and fear, so much attachment, and your expectations are not met—all this is torture. You have no real peace and happiness, no relaxation, only more torture.
I can't say one hundred percent, but according to my observations the relationship will last around three or four years. But this is just how long it will last in your heart, then it is not certain what will happen. It is up to you whether you need to tell him or not. Do whatever is best. Maybe there is no need to inform him.
Anyway, this is the attitude to have whether you live with this man or someone else: I am a servant for sentient beings. I'm here to serve others. So, you have loving kindness and compassion first from your side.
Also, you have life obstacles so you should liberate 60 animals, maybe the Dharma center can help you. Maybe it fits in with the hospice so discuss it with them. We have a certain way doing it, a most beneficial way of doing it. Not only do you liberate animals from a place where they will be killed, but you liberate them in their own environment, giving a long life to them and to you who are liberating them. What we do is most beneficial for the animals. We liberate them from the lower realms and from samsara and bring them to enlightenment by chanting mantras, taking them around many holy objects, blessing water and then pouring or sprinkling it on the animals, from forest birds to many other kinds of animals. There are three very important ways to liberate animals and to purify their negative karma.
Also, you should make 15 long life tsa-tsas. Contact the center about how to do this. You have to learn how to do it. Be sure you make them well, not imperfect with missing limbs, eyes, or nose. [See the Commentary on Tsa-tsa Practice for more information.]
Also, print 150 long life sutras. You can get one from the center. It is good to print and read it.
It is also good to keep the card of the Boudha stupa and to pray to it for success. If you remember the Boudha stupa when you die, you will be completely saved from the lower realms.
With much love and prayers...
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a student who was experiencing difficulties with her husband. Although Rinpoche generally counsels married couples to keep trying, in this case he advised her that it would be more beneficial for them to separate and meet other partners.|
Although you don’t have the karma for your relationship to be beneficial, the fact that you are together indicates that you have some previous karma to deal with. You are now married to a person who was created by your delusions and karma. You are married to the result of your own delusion and karma.
The solution is to change the circumstances so that the relationship ends harmoniously. You should make prayers for your husband to find another woman who he is attracted to, and who will benefit his mind. This way he will leave with a happy mind, and the separation will be harmonious. When the prayers are made with the motivation for the most beneficial outcome, then there will naturally be more power to the prayers.
For this, you need to purify the previous karma with your husband, and make prayers for him to find a suitable partner. Until the karma is purified, there will be difficulties to experience.
|A student’s husband had said he would give her some money, which she planned to use to support Dharma projects, especially people doing retreat. Later, her husband reneged on the agreement, and withheld the money.|
My very dear Kathy,
I deeply apologize that I didn’t get to talk to you that day, when you were returning to your home. However, while I am traveling to different places, I do remember you and think of you and your incredible generosity.
I hope you can do retreat in my house sometime in the future, and have a great time with the buddhas, especially Compassion Buddha, who always communicates with you.
I heard you are having some difficulties receiving money from your husband, so I have some suggestions for your practice. These practices can also help with other aspects of your life.
According to my divinations, it came out very beneficial for you to make torma offerings to Palden Lhamo, which means chocolate, cake, biscuits, etc. You put it in front of a picture or statue of Palden Lhamo and think that the picture is really Palden Lhamo. She is a Dharma protector, but the correct way to think is that she is really your guru. If you have received teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, then you can think that Palden Lhamo is really His Holiness. Recite OM AH HUNG three times, which is a blessing, visualize the offering as oceans of nectar, with the nature of great bliss, which generates great bliss in Palden Lhamo’s holy mind. Palden Lhamo’s holy mind is then so inspired to grant all your requests and wishes immediately. You can visualize Palden Lhamo sending light to your husband’s heart, so that his heart becomes extremely happy and generous, and he will help you with whatever you need, even without asking, just by you having the thought within you.
Another thing you can do is recite the short prayer to Palden Lhamo, asking for help. The prayers contain the four actions. Also, it would be good if you can recite the short praise to Tara. You can recite the longer version (21 Praises) once or twice but recite the short praise 80 times.
You are always in my prayers.
With much love, and I hope to see you soon. Please, if there is anything I can do, let me know. I look forward to seeing you...
|Problems in Relationships
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a person who was having difficulties in a relationship.|
Problems in relationships are based on the negative karma of both people, which they have created previously. The problems are a result of that.
When there are relationship problems, such as the wife not being happy with her husband, their becoming enemies, and so on, this disharmony is the result of past negative karma.
If you are enjoying the opposite situation, being in harmony with your spouse and children, that is the result of practicing morality in your past lives. This is also the experience of the result of an action being similar to the cause. One result of negative karma is the suffering you experience in the human realm, some time later in your future lives.
Besides this, there is the possessed karmic result—you are born and live in muddy, unhygienic places. There is also the ripening-aspect result, which is to be reborn in the lower realms, in the hells, or as a hungry ghost or animal, and experience those sufferings.
The worst among all of these results is creating the result similar to the cause. In this and future lives, you repeat that action again and again due to the habits of past lives. Each complete action produces again these four suffering results.
The way to understand how this becomes negative karma is because attachment is a non-virtuous thought. When actions are performed with attachment, with clinging only to the temporary samsaric happiness of this life, then that non-virtuous motivation transforms the action into non-virtue. Then, the result is only suffering.
Then there is the suffering of separation, of other people slandering you, of splits in a relationship or between boss and employee, or disharmony due to negative speech. Those are the results of slander toward and causing disunity among others in your past lives.
There is also the suffering of feeling depressed without reason. The Buddha explained in the Kangyur that being depressed for no apparent reason at nighttime is the result of past sexual misconduct. The same would apply if you feel depressed when you wake up in the morning, but can’t tell why.
There are many powerful methods to purify these karmas, so that one doesn’t have to experience the suffering result endlessly in future lives, and have to continuously create negative karma due to habit. At the least, you are able to make the result you experience much lighter or shorter. It depends on how wise you are in doing the practice of purification, and how much strong, healthy, positive regret you generate, which makes your mind and body healthy and free from all results of negative karma.
Reciting the names of the 35 Buddhas is extremely powerful, because among these Buddhas are those who dedicated themselves to purifying these negative karmas. By reciting their names, many eons of negative karma are purified. [See the Daily Practice chapter and Appendix 3 of Rinpoche's book Making Life Meaningful for more information about this practice.] You can also recite Vajrasattva's mantra, which is practiced by all four Tibetan Mahayana traditions.
The lam-rim lineage lamas emphasized doing prostrations every day, like Lama Atisha did. They recited prayers, with prostrations, thousands of times a day. You can also recite the Compassionate Buddha's (Chenrezig's) mantra.
The solution involves two things: purifying past negative karma, and living according to vows by taking precepts. The best is if you can take vows for life, but if that is not possible, then to take them for a certain number of years. If that is not possible, take them on certain days each month. You can take the Eight Mahayana precepts for one day, which collects so much merit, because you take them with bodhicitta before all the gurus, buddhas, and bodhisattvas. It involves avoiding eating black foods*, so the mind is more pure and able to meditate better.
The Nyung-nä Abiding in Compassionate Buddha retreat includes all these practices: recitation of Chenrezig’s mantra, long and short, which purifies all the negative karmas and collects so much merit; precepts; recitation of the 35 Buddhas’ names; and prostrations. All these powerful practices are there. Even if you can do just one two-day nyung-nä, so much negative karma is purified, and you get closer to enlightenment.
This is the most powerful thing you can do in your life. You create merit which increases your good fortune and success in the future, up to the highest success of being able to achieve all realizations and enlightenment for sentient beings. This is the best way to ensure you have a good rebirth after death. So much merit is collected and obscurations to happiness are purified, bringing so much happiness in this life, a long life, health, harmony, and success. You develop compassion for other sentient beings, so you have more harmony with others, and others are more harmonious with you. Others are more loving and helpful toward you.
This is why practicing Dharma in daily life is extremely important and the most profitable thing. Dharma has all the answers for life. Without Dharma, there are no solutions; life is only problems and suffering. Therefore, to learn the Dharma and practice meditation is extremely important. It is the most important education among all educations, the most urgent thing in one’s life for oneself and others.
*Black foods include meat, eggs, onion, garlic, and radishes.
|Dealing with Abuse
|A student’s husband had become abusive and was threatening her. She asked Rinpoche whether to file for divorce, as it was becoming intolerable. Her husband had been abusive in the past and Rinpoche had helped at that time. This time, he responded as follows.|
Thank you very much for your kind message. I understand the situation that you explained.
As you know, this is the nature of samsara, these things happen. It is part of the quality of samsara. Usually, when we say qualities, we mean something good, but here it is the suffering of samsara, a shortcoming of being in samsara that you have to experience these things.
According to my divination, there is definitely harm from black magic involved. Of course, Buddha doesn’t receive harm from black magic because he has no karma. Bodhisattvas do not receive harm from black magic, either, or arhats, who are free from delusion and karma.
I suggest you perform Lion-face Dakini practice. This is extremely powerful. It has been proven. There is a student whose closest friend was helping the Dharma center where she lived, and when she split with her partner, all the students turned against her and criticized her. I told her to practice Lion-face Dakini and then it completely changed and everyone turned back toward her. This practice is known to be very powerful, particularly for this kind of situation. So, if you can, recite the mantra and practice the meditations.
When doing this practice, don’t think that the interferers are a person. Instead, think that the interferers are the delusions. Don’t destroy the person. Destroy the delusions. Try it for a few months and then see how things are.
I am very happy that you recite the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM continuously. That is a great gift for me from you. The more malas you recite, the greater a gift it is for me.
Pray every day to make your life most beneficial for sentient beings. If you don’t know what is best to pray for, then pray to Medicine Buddha and especially to the gurus.
Pray to the Compassion Buddha and pray to be like the Compassion Buddha, able to benefit hundreds of others by having the same qualities as the Compassion Buddha, and also to be like Lama Tsongkhapa, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Medicine Buddha, and Tara.
Then, pray never to be separated from the guru and the Triple Gem from now on, in all your lifetimes: “May I always make offerings to the guru and the Triple Gem and never be separated from them, and may I always receive the blessings of the guru and the Triple Gem in my mind.
“Due to all merit of the three times collected by myself and others (which does not exist from its own side), may the 'I' (which does not exist from its own side) achieve enlightenment (which does not exist from its own side), and lead all sentient beings (who do not exist from their own side) to that enlightenment (which does not exist from its own side), by myself alone.”
This dedication makes your merit inexhaustible and makes it impossible for it to be destroyed by heresy or wrong views.
Rinpoche gave the following advice on various relationship problems.
The relationship problems of people in the West are based on both people’s negative karma, which was created previously. The problems are a result of that.
Now, we need to introduce karma, which is why there are relationship problems, such as the wife not being in harmony with the husband, becoming enemies with each other, other people not supporting the husband, going against his wishes, and so on. This disharmony is the result of past negative karma.
Enjoying the opposite situation, harmony with your partner and children, is the result of morality in past lives. This is an example of the result being similar to the cause. One result of negative karma is the suffering you experience in the human realm.
Besides this, there is the possessed result—where you live, where you are born, for example, in muddy, unhygienic places. There is also the ripening-aspect result: to be reborn in the lower realms, hell, as a hungry ghost or animal, and experiencing those sufferings.
The worst among those is creating the result similar to the cause. In this and future lives, you perform that action again and again due to the habits of past lives. Each complete action produces these four suffering results.
The way to understand how it becomes negative karma is because attachment is a non-virtuous thought. When actions are performed with attachment, with clinging only to the temporary samsaric happiness of this life, then that non-virtuous motivation transforms the action into non-virtue. Then the result is only suffering.
Then there is the suffering of separation, of other people slandering you, of splits in a relationship, or between boss and employee, or disharmony because someone says something negative. Those are the results of e slander and causing disunity among others in your past lives.
There is also the suffering of depression without reason. The Buddha explained in the Kangyur that being depressed for no apparent reason, when night time comes, is the result of past sexual misconduct. The same would apply when one wakes up in the morning and feels depressed, but one can’t tell why.
If one wishes to purify this, there are so many powerful methods one can use, so one doesn’t have to experience suffering results endlessly in future lives, and one doesn’t have to continuously create negative karma due to habits. At least, you are able to make the result you experience much lighter or shorter. It depends on how wise you are in performing the practice of purification, and how much strong, healthy, positive regret you generate, which makes your mind and body healthy and free from all results of negative karma.
Reciting the 35 Buddhas’ names is extremely powerful, because among these Buddhas are those who dedicated themselves to purifying these negative karmas. By reciting their names, many eons of negative karma are purified. You can also perform Vajrasattva recitation, which is practiced by all four Tibetan Mahayana traditions.
The lam-rim lineage lamas emphasized performing prostrations every day, like Lama Atisha did. They recited and made prostrations hundreds and even thousands of times in a day. You can also recite the Compassionate Buddha’s mantra.
Here, the solution involves two things: purify past negative karma, and live according to vows, by taking precepts. The best way is to take vows for life, but if that is not possible, then take them for a certain number of years. If that is not possible, take them on certain days each month. Take the Eight Mahayana Precepts for one day, which collects vast amounts of merit, because you take them with a bodhicitta motivation before all the gurus, buddhas, and bodhisattvas. These involve avoiding black foods, so the mind is more pure and able to meditate better.
If you perform the Nyung-nä Abiding in Compassionate Buddha retreat, it includes all these practices: recitation of the Chenrezig mantras, long and short, which purifies all those negative karmas and collects enormous amounts of merit; taking precepts; recitation of the 35 Buddhas’ names; and prostrations. All these powerful practices are included. Even if you can perform just one two-day nyung-nä, so much negative karma is purified, and you get closer to enlightenment.
This is the most powerful thing to do in your life. So much merit is created for luck and success in the future, up to the highest success of being able to achieve all the realizations, and achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. There is no question that it is the best way to have a good rebirth after death. Therefore, so much merit is collected and obscurations to happiness are purified, and it brings so much happiness in this life, a long life, health, harmony, and success. You develop compassion for other sentient beings, so you have more harmony with others, and others are more harmonious with you. Others are more loving and helping toward you.
This is why practicing Dharma in daily life is extremely important and the most profitable thing. Dharma has all the answers in life. Without Dharma, there are no solutions. Life is only problems and suffering. Therefore, to learn Dharma and practice meditation is extremely important. It is the most important education, the most urgent thing in life for oneself and others.
An Abusive Relationship
After being in an abusive relationship for some years, a woman had recently separated for her husband, after suffering physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Rinpoche wrote her the following letter.
I have heard that you have had a difficult situation with your husband. It is good that you were able to separate from him. It’s very important always to remember one’s own past life negative karma: in the past you treated him the same way. It’s good to remember this, so you don’t get angry with him. Because you treated him badly in a past life, he treated you badly, and that will cause him to be reborn in the lower realms. That’s how to develop compassion.
Think also, “I did similar things to him in the past.” This is the also way to think about others who harm you.
This shows the nature of samsara. Think, “The situation is this: I must be liberated from samsara. Therefore, I must practice Dharma. There is no other way.”
All the problems you experience are teaching you and persuading you to practice Dharma. They remind you to abandon negative karma and always to generate good karma.
“I must experience problems with compassion”—this means for the benefit of all sentient beings. There are numberless others whose problems are greater than yours, and you are just one person. Even calculating with these numbers, think, “How wonderful for me to experience all suffering and its cause, and let them have all happiness up to the highest happiness of enlightenment. I am just one person. Whether I am reborn even in the hell realms or whether I achieve liberation, it is nothing.” Perform this meditation whenever you can, morning and evening.
Everything you receive comes from the kindness of every sentient being. They are the most precious beings for you, so take on all their suffering, with compassion, in the form of pollution or smoke. Give it to your ego. It becomes totally non-existent, and so does the emotional “I.” It becomes non-existent, as it is non-existent. Perform this meditation from time to time.
Meditate on loving kindness, also, wishing all sentient beings to have temporal and ultimate happiness. Give all your past, present, and future happiness to every sentient being. Visualize that it becomes whatever they want or need. That causes them to actualize the path, and that path causes them to eliminate all their defilements.
Visualize yourself as Chenrezig, Tara, or Buddha whenever you experience problems, sickness, or relationship problems. Think, “I am experiencing this for sentient beings.” Even when you are dying, perform the same meditation. It is the best way of dying. Practicing it during your life is the best way of living: you live and die for others who are experiencing the cycle of death.
However much compassion you generate toward one sentient being, however much service you offer, that much more extensive merit and that much more purification of past karma you accomplish, and thereby that much closer you become to enlightenment and to the end of samsara and its oceans of suffering.
If you don’t generate compassion, you don’t receive any of these vast benefits. Other beings are the most kind ones in your life. Those you should cherish are only others. Those you should work for are only other sentient beings. What they need is happiness, up to enlightenment. What they don’t need is suffering. It is your responsibility to accomplish this for all sentient beings. Therefore, you need to achieve enlightenment, to actualize the path, to meditate, to transform whatever you do in daily life into the path, doing everything for others, only for their benefit.
During a stay in Hong Kong, Rinpoche was hosted by a woman who was experiencing excessive strain in her marriage. According to her, the primary condition for the escalating tension between her and her husband seemed to be the financial difficulties her husband’s business was encountering.
My very dear Jill,
Thank you very much for all your nectar lunches, dinners, and money offerings, and all the other offerings you made.
In answer to your question about your marriage, since it is not working well, maybe you should marry the Buddhas and the deities. What do you think about that? I guess you can still argue with the deity, but that means you have to see the deity first.
The best is when you become the deity. That is the best marriage. Then it is goodbye to all sufferings and defilements.
Anyway, in the mean time, until that happens, while you are with your husband, just change your mind when problems arise. This means accepting the experience in the opposite way. Label it differently, by saying, “This is fantastic, this is great.” Why is it so fantastic? Because you can experience these problems on behalf of all sentient beings who have relationship problems, whose problems are 100,000 times worse than yours. You can experience these problems on behalf of all those who will experience relationship problems in the future, as well as those experiencing them now. Think, “I take all their relationship problems on myself and experience them myself.”
There is a very powerful way to do that, to give everything to the ego, to absorb your problems into the ego, which is what is giving you all those problems. Extinguish the ego like an enemy that is destroyed by a bomb, destroyed to pieces and scattered everywhere. The ego becomes non-existent. It doesn’t exist at all.
It is very good to think this from time to time. Practice the visualization of taking on the sufferings of others and giving your happiness and your past, present, and future merits to all the beings of the six realms, as well as to the beings in the intermediate state. The rest of the time, when these relationship problems or other problems arise for you, think immediately, “I am experiencing this on behalf of all sentient beings.”
Each time you do this, you are collecting vast amounts of merit and good luck. This is the best cause for achieving enlightenment, to liberate numberless sentient beings from suffering and its causes, and to bring them all to enlightenment, including your husband.
This is how to enjoy your life and experience its problems with happiness. You are achieving the best result and profiting from this experience. Then, when you perform this practice, you will really appreciate your husband, and you will feel his kindness in the depths of your heart. You will see that he is very precious in your life. When you see the benefits of this practice and you come to like performing this practice, you will want to achieve this result. The reason we like money is because of what we can do with money. In the same way, you can achieve so much benefit by experiencing these problems. Without him, this would not be possible. He is giving you this opportunity.
Thank you very much and please enjoy this advice. When you practice this, you will feel like you are of this earth. You'll be flying with Bodhicitta Airways—not with Lufthansa or British Airways. These other airlines have a possibility of crashing, but with Bodhicitta Airways, there is no such possibility. It is the opposite. Bodhicitta Airways is the safest airline.