Advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave a talk to the recent European Regional Meeting in Italy which included this teaching on the benefits of offering service to the guru. We invite you to read the edited transcript of Rinpoche’s talk and watch Rinpoche giving this teaching on video.
An excerpt from the talk follows:
“Our reason to be here in Italy, at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, where the director, the SPC [spiritual program coordinator], all the staff here, with FPMT Italy arranged to receive His Holiness to give all the different teachings. Everything went so well. Unbelievable, unbelievable accomplishment, service. Wow. People have really enjoyed. The happiness they normally achieve is just external, sensual, attachment, just like that, nothing new, just the same story, from beginningless rebirths. His Holiness is sooo extremely pleased. It went extremely well, and so I want to say from my heart, billions, zillions, trillions, numberless thanks! Billions, zillions, trillions, numberless thanks! It’s really wonderful, the best accomplishment, as an individual and as an organization.
“So of course, body and mind is under the control of karma and delusion, in the nature of suffering, so of course [we have] tiredness, feel worn out – these things happen. During beginningless rebirths we did not achieve liberation from samsara; we created the cause of these contaminated aggregates. But what I want to tell you, what you have to understand, is that many eons of negative karma have been purified. Sooo many eons of negative karma, heavy negative karma has been purified through bearing much hardship, serving the teachings of the Buddha, sentient beings, the guru, or Compassion Buddha. Sooo many eons, from beginningless rebirths, so many years of negative karma is purified. You have to understand, you have to rejoice about that. So the more you feel difficulty, the more you feel tiredness, whatever happens – oh, it’s great purification.”
Lama Zopa Rinpoche wrote a thank-you letter to the volunteers who had made the recent Light of the Path retreat go so well. Rinpoche’s focus is on how meaningful it is to serve sentient beings:
“My very dear, very precious, very kind wish-fulfilling ones,
Thank you sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much for your really beautiful, amazing, joyful dedication; really beautifully done, all your service, well done!
Taking care of sentient beings from the heart: so this is the really most meaningful life. Cherishing sentient beings and serving them as well as serving the teachings of Buddha to educate sentient beings to practice and actualize the path, in order to free them from the oceans of samsaric sufferings, not only that, but to achieve the peerless happiness, the state of omniscient mind. … Therefore, what you are doing is most pleasing to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, by cherishing sentient beings and taking care of them and serving them … wow … wow … wow.”
Read the full letter
“If it was possible, I should offer you each trillions of dollars for learning about Buddhism. This means your mind is open for real happiness, to be free from the gross suffering in the three lower realms and even not to be satisfied with the temporary happiness of the three upper realms. Most importantly, once you can meet and practice Dharma, this frees you from samsaric happiness, which is only suffering; and Dharma can give you full enlightenment, peerless happiness. Learning Dharma and practicing it is so important for yourself as well as others, countless others, as once you can achieve enlightenment, you can free countless living beings – all living beings – from the oceans of suffering. So you can see there is nothing more important than this: to learn Dharma and practice.”
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Lama Zopa Rinpoche replied to a student who had concerns about health and having given back their ordinations vows, which led to them feeling very isolated and depressed and being unable to study or practice:
“If you can study lam-rim, that should be the main teaching – just like the wandering ascetics, the monks whose only belonging is the Lamrim Chenmo. They don’t have anything else, don’t carry anything but the lam-rim, so like that. So that is the main one to study, to meditate on – the lam-rim. You have to actualize this, otherwise we will suffer. Without realizations on guru devotion, renunciation, bodhichitta, right view and particularly tantra, you will be suffering in samsara endlessly. Do you want to do that? I don’t think so.
You should know it’s not just practice for this lifetime. The practice becomes preparation for all your lives, so eons, eons, eons, all your future lives, to go to a pure land, then enlightenment, to be free from samsara, enlightenment and then to benefit all sentient beings and enlighten them. Don’t think you are alone.” …
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Lama Zopa Rinpoche typed up this advice on his iPad, and asked that it be made widely available:
“Practicing patience doesn’t mean that if someone asks you to immediately kill a gigantic lady, the size of Mount Meru or the size of a louse, you do everything that the person asks. It is not like that! What it means is that in your heart you feel or think that this person is the most kind, the most precious, the most dear one. This is what guru Buddha has taught – you need to practice patience with somebody, because the person who is called ‘enemy,’ the one who has anger towards you, then if you practice patience towards that person and don’t get angry back, then that person gives you the most precious thing, enlightenment, the state of omniscient mind. With that person you can bring the numberless sentient beings to enlightenment, free them from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to full enlightenment. So this becomes the reason to practice patience.”
Read the full advice
“The whole point of our FPMT education programs is not to produce ‘sharp minds’ but to ‘subdue the mind.’ Between an intelligent, sharp mind and a good heart, a good heart is the most important. Without a good heart it is only possible to become an arhat. Good heart means subduing the mind.
Subduing the mind is the whole essence, as then enlightenment is possible. The ultimate purpose of life, the reason for living, why we eat and drink, sleep, work, and do listening, reflecting, and meditating is to free the numberless suffering sentient beings from each suffering realm and bring them not only to ultimate happiness, liberation, but to full enlightenment. “
Lama Zopa Rinpoche recorded the following conversation with a student directly on his iPad in November 2013. The student was sharing the news that gold was being offered to the spire of the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, and Rinpoche was telling the student to rejoice, as jealousy only causes suffering, not happiness.
“Tell people this: hell, enlightenment, samsara, nirvana, every day happiness and suffering, come from one’s own mind. Thinking this way leads to hell, thinking that way leads to enlightenment. Every day happiness and suffering as well as samsara and nirvana all depend upon what concept we generate.
So therefore, it becomes so important to always generate positive concepts, positive ways of thinking. This is Dharma practice.”
Rinpoche recently finished a brand new teaching and translation on the benefits of offering to stupas – Padmasambhava’s Instruction on Offerings to Stupas. It is quite an amazing, monumental work, which took Rinpoche more than two months to complete, and which Rinpoche would like to be used far and wide. The text details the benefits of circumambulating, and prostrating, making offerings, and offering service to stupas. The booklet is available in eBook, booklet letter, and A4 formats as well as in Italian.
Holy objects, including stupas, are very important to Rinpoche and the FPMT for enabling students to create merit on their path to enlightenment. Building 100,000 stupas around the world is one of Rinpoche’s Vast Visions. Please enjoy the very inspiring collection of information and photos of the 48 stupas completed so far!
“The initial reason why people come to a Dharma center is not for the food but for the teachings and meditations; they are a little bored with the lives they have and are looking for something new. However, the conditions at the center, and especially the food, are a very important support for the teachings and meditations. Sometimes in the past when I would teach on impermanence, the hells and the eight worldly dharmas, people would get scared and leave; but if the food was good, they would stay. That’s one way to keep them!
So I will explain a short meditation for cooks.” …
Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s recent pithy advice, reported by Ven. Roger Kunsang (@rogerkunsang) via Twitter:
“What makes death very difficult – worldly concerns, the 8 worldly dharmas , attachment! What helps – good heart!”
“Don’t let personal problems become center problems or other’s problems!”
”When someone is making you angry, don’t put the practice off to later, practice patience now! Later may never come.”
“Your Guru gives you teachings and then puts you in the situation so you have to practice that… lojong.”