E-letter No. 107: April 2012

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Maitreya Instituut, Netherlands 1990 (Archive #371)

Dear LYWA friends and supporters,

Thank you so much for your interest in and support of the Archive.

Last month we sent you a request for help in fulfilling Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s wishes with respect to getting more of his teachings published. Many of you responded and we thank you for that. However, given the importance of this project, I would like to repeat the request again here.

Fulfilling Rinpoche's Wishes

\"Ven. Roger Kunsang, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s secretary and CEO of FPMT Inc., recently told me:

What seems to be most important to Rinpoche now is having his teachings and advice available as widely as possible. Rinpoche is saying if we can't do it now how can we expect that we will get it together when Rinpoche is no longer with us. In the past it was quite different; Rinpoche would say his teaching was a waste of time and focus on Lama Yeshe. It has dramatically changed now. Rinpoche wants his teachings published as soon as possible.

To us, this was a most welcome surprise. As Ven. Roger says, in the past Rinpoche always downplayed the importance of his teachings. Nonetheless, as LYWA supporters will know, we've felt they're extremely important and have put considerable effort into recording, transcribing and editing them. Consequently there are hundreds of thousands of copies of Rinpoche's books in print and thousands of pages of edited transcript on our website, freely available to all.

The timing of Rinpoche’s expressed wish is interesting as not only have we just launched our Heart Advice Series but we are also poised to publish the next titles in our Publishing the FPMT Lineage (PFL) series this year—Rinpoche's teachings on the eight worldly dharmas (in a book called How to Practice Dharma), the perfect human rebirth and impermanence and death—as well as his teachings on emptiness.

When Ven. Roger asked Denma Lochö Rinpoche the other day what we could do to ensure Rinpoche’s quick recovery he said,

The students and centers really need to work according to Rinpoche's wishes. Whatever Rinpoche has advised for them to do, it's important to follow Rinpoche's advice. The main thing is that everyone in the organization should really strive to fulfill Rinpoche's advice. (Read Denma Lochö Rinpoche's full advice here.)

For us, that's clearly pushing ahead as quickly as we can to make more of Rinpoche’s teachings available. For you, that could be helping us do it. Our main undertaking is PFL, our project to publish all of Rinpoche’s commentaries on the lam-rim. We have been offered a matching grant of $100,000 a year to accomplish this, so if you would like to contribute to this, every dollar you give will be doubled.

Please make your donation here or mail us a check, and specify that it is for our PFL project. Thank you so much. We appreciate your support.

What's New On Our Website

Liston online to Rinpoche giving an oral transmission of Long Life Sutra and a teaching on torma offering, given in Taiwan in April 2007. The teaching on torma offering is based on a text composed by Panchen Losang Chokyi Gyaltsen.

We have just posted a teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche on The Kindness of the Guru. This teaching was given to mark the occasion of Ösel Hita’s fifth birthday.

This month we have posted a number of mantras along with Rinpoche's commentary, such as The Mantra of the Exalted Jewel of the Pinnacle, which eliminates all fears, pacifies negative karma and sickness, and collects merit. There are also new additions to the Sutra and Mantra Recitations page in Rinpoche's Online Advice Book, including The Great Increasing Jewel, Fathomless Celestial Mansion, Extremely Well Abiding, Secret Holy Mantra (displayed below), and the Tara Mantra for Success and Dispelling Obstacles.

More Advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche

In addition to the updates to the Mantras page, we have also added three new advices on protection from spirit harm, including advice regarding spirit harm that causes illness and troubled relationships; advice on what to do with tsa-tsas, for people who have to make a large number of them; advice for someone about to do pilgrimage; and a short teaching on how to practice tong-len, in which Rinpoche says:

When we do the practice of giving, there is unbelievable merit. Each time we give temporary happiness, ultimate happiness and enlightenment to each sentient being, so many times skies of merit are collected.

Each time we give our body, skies of merits are collected. Even by giving our body to numberless hell beings, skies of merit are collected, because they are numberless.

We give everything from our hats down to our socks to each hell being, hungry ghost, animal, human being, sura, asura and intermediate state being, so there are skies of merits. Then we give away all the people around us. Each time we collect skies of merits.

Wow, wow, wow! Our lives are so meaningful and rich. Wow, wow, wow!

These are only a few of the the new advices added this month; see here for a list of all the additions this month to the Online Advice Book.

Thank you again for your kind support of our work for the benefit of others. This month we leave you with a teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche excerpted from a commentary on Vajrasattva practice.

Much love, 
Nick Ribush

This Month's Teaching: Commentary on Vajrasattva Practice

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Lake Arrowhead, California, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.During not only Vajrasattva but any retreat, the most important point is to remember death. With the actual realization of impermanence and death, spontaneously feel that you do not have long to live, that the appearance of this life is very brief and you could die at any time, even today. Even if you don't have this realization, it is good if you at least feel that you might die this month. Gen Jampa Wangdu used to say that nowadays it is difficult even to realize this, to have a constant feeling that you may die this month.

This realization is connected with awareness of karma and of the sufferings of the lower realms. Without awareness of these, you cannot practice Dharma even for your own happiness, let alone for the benefit of other sentient beings. Meditating on death doesn't make much sense unless is effective in controlling your mind. If your idea is just to change to another human body, you don't see any sense in it because the human realm has the nature of suffering just like the hells. You need to meditate on death with awareness of all these other subjects, because then it makes sense and becomes a powerful way to control your mind.

You also need to generate strong bodhicitta. After going over the sufferings of the lower realms, think that there are numberless sentient beings suffering in this way. First of all, you can't stand your own suffering for even a second. Besides experiencing it, you can't even stand to hear about it. But there are numberless other sentient beings who are suffering right now, and your own suffering is nothing compared to theirs. Even if you are suffering in hell, your own suffering is nothing when compared to the numberless other sentient beings who are suffering in the same way. Therefore, there is no way you can relax; there is no way you can ignore them. You have to practice Dharma; you have to do something for them.

Other sentient beings need you to pacify all their suffering and its causes and to lead them to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment. You have all the conditions necessary to practice the path and to achieve enlightenment, so you have the responsibility to do this. Achieving enlightenment is the only way you will be able to work perfectly for all sentient beings and lead them to enlightenment. Therefore, you need to purify your obstacles, because unless you do this, you will not be able to subdue your mind and grow the crops of the realizations of the path to enlightenment in the field of your mental continuum. Purifying obstacles is fertilizing the field of your mental continuum. By stopping the obstacles, you plant the crops of realizations and allow them to grow.

First meditate on how unbearable it would be if you yourself were born in the lower realms and had to experience that suffering. The more unbearable you feel this would be for you, the more unbearable you will feel that other sentient beings have to suffer in this way. And even those who are now human beings or gods will also have to be reborn in the lower realms and suffer there. Simply think of the sufferings of the lower realms in this way.

Generate a strong thought of impermanence and death. Think, "I will die today. I might even die during this session. I'm not sure that I will complete the session." Decide that you are going to die today.

On top of that, generate strong bodhicitta, which depends on strong compassion, which depends on feeling it is unbearable that others are suffering in samsara. The other point to consider is the kindness of other sentient beings. One way to do this is to think of how sentient beings have been our mother and kind in four ways. Another way is to think of their extensive kindness, of how this perfect human rebirth and its causes have been received through the kindness of other sentient beings and how the happiness of our future lives, liberation, and enlightenment are received wholly through the kindness of other sentient beings. All our happiness of the three times is received through the kindness of each sentient being. Even the comforts and enjoyments of our daily life are received through the kindness of sentient beings. Think of the kindness of sentient beings as extensively as you can. And in particular, remember the special kindness of your enemy. This helps you to feel strong loving kindness, which can then help you to generate strong bodhicitta.

Doing lam-rim meditation at the beginning of each session is very good, because it becomes your motivation for the session. It doesn't matter whether you are meditating on your own suffering or the suffering of others or on the kindness of others.

When you are meditating on perfect human rebirth, after you generate the experience of how precious it is, you can then think of the suffering of the sentient beings who do not have these freedoms and richnesses. For example, the minds of wealthy people are dark and empty if they have no idea of Dharma, of karma and reincarnation. Their minds are filled with ignorance. Even though they are physically rich, they are mentally poor. Their minds are impoverished of Dharma. They don't really know what they are doing with their life. They believe that they are pursuing the cause of happiness, but the reality is the complete opposite. They are creating only the cause of suffering. From morning until night, by following the desire that clings to the happiness of this life, they do actions that become only the cause of the lower realms. They have no idea what happens after this life; they have no idea of all the inexpressible sufferings of samsara and in particular of the lower realms. They have no idea what they are doing with their life.

Even though they are experiencing excitement by going to parties and so forth, whatever excitement they are experiencing is hallucinated. They label suffering as pleasure and it then appears to them to be pleasure. That's it. And the result in the long run is only suffering.

Reflecting in this way causes you to generate compassion. Those who have not met Dharma, who have not received the freedoms and richnesses become objects of compassion and a reason for you to achieve enlightenment. Since you are responsible for the happiness of all these sentient beings, and especially their ultimate happiness, which means enlightenment, and for freeing them from all their suffering and its causes, again you have to achieve enlightenment. Therefore, you need to do the practice of purification. You can relate each lam-rim meditation you do in this same way.

During the Vajrasattva retreat, as I mentioned before, it is very important to remember to practice the remedy of the four powers in each session.

Another point is to remember as many negative karmas as you can while you are reciting the Vajrasattva mantra. First think of the ten non-virtues you have committed and then of whichever vows you have taken and then degenerated. Remember the great shortcomings of degenerating pratimoksha, bodhisattva, and tantric vows as explained in the teachings. It results in rebirth in the lower realms, such as in the hells and so forth. Remember these things and the specific negative karmas you have committed in relation to the guru and to other sentient beings.

The last thing is to remember the definition of non-virtue: non-virtue is that which results in suffering. Also remember that actions become non-virtuous through our having a non-virtuous motivation, such as anger, ignorance, especially the desire that clings to this life. Then think that this is the way that you usually live your life. Out of the actions that you do each day, it is hard to find even one action that is virtuous; most of your actions are non-virtuous. Even if you have met the Dharma and are trying to practice it, because your mind is still very uncontrolled, your actions are mostly non-virtuous. By thinking of the definition of non-virtue, you can see very clearly that so many of your actions become non-virtuous. This causes you to feel strong repentance and to generate the wish to purify. Otherwise, if we relate non-virtue simply to killing a human being or something similar, since we haven't committed that particular negative karma in this life, we might think that we are fine, and our practice of purification will not become powerful.

While you recite the Vajrasattva mantra, think that your root guru, who is all the gurus, is purifying you. Then remember the meaning of the absolute guru, the dharmakaya, the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness, the holy mind of all the buddhas. Concentrating single-pointedly on this, recite the mantra.

You can then recite the mantra while meditating that the guru is Buddha and on the kindness of the guru. On the basis of the guru devotion outlines, you can recite the mantra.

A commentary on Vajrasattva practice, given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche after a Vajrasattva je-nang at Maitreya Instituut, Netherlands, in 1990. Edited by Sandra Smith. You can read the entire teaching on our website.