Lama Zopa Rinpoche: Life Practice Advice

One of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s highest priorities was responding to students’ inquiries on daily practice and preliminary practice advice from him. For 25+ years, Rinpoche refined this advice, referring to it as “Life Practices.”

Lama Zopa Rinpoche smiling outside with blooming marigolds behind hime

This advice always followed a general structure, but was also specific to each student. As Rinpoche is no longer able to provide this personal correspondence to each student, we created a page of Rinpoche’s most essential life practice advice, based off thousands of letters Rinpoche offered to students for nearly three decades.

By following this advice, students can feel confident they are receiving Rinpoche’s personal guidance and blessing on their path to enlightenment. As Rinpoche often said in his letters to students receiving practice advice:

“Rejoice! This is a happy thing, to get these practices, to benefit every sentient being, to free every sentient being from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and to bring them to enlightenment. So for that reason this advice is for you to achieve enlightenment.”

Letter from Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Rinpoche composed the following letter that was sent along with the Life Practice Adviceand his specific advice to his students in Life Preliminary Practice:

My most dear, most kind, most precious wish-fulfilling,

Please find below my advice for your practice, what you should focus on for your life. One practice to do every day is the morning motivation, How to Make My Lives Wish-fulfilling, along with blessing the speech and daily mantras.

It is very important to meditate every day on the lamrim and to recite a lamrim prayer every day, such as The Foundation of all Good Qualities or The Three Principal Aspects of the Path. Read it slowly while thinking about the meaning. Lamrim is what you need to actualize, no matter how long it takes. Please put all your effort there.

Probably you are doing Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga every day. If so, this is excellent. If not, now you can start. Before the guru absorbs into you, stop and meditate on whatever section of the lamrim you are up to.

One meditation that you must try to do every day is on the topic of guru devotion. If you sometimes miss doing it, that’s okay but then continue the next day. There is no question of a certain length of time for the meditation; it is up to you. Do whatever fits your schedule. Then do whatever lamrim topic you are on. Do it every day, slowly going through each of the subjects. Whatever meditation you did in the morning, keep it in mind during the day so that your mind remains in the lamrim all day long.

Please try to meditate on the lamrim based on guru yoga. On this basis, you will get all the realizations and have the most success in your life. It is important to try to achieve all the realizations in order to actualize enlightenment in order to liberate the numberless sentient beings from samsara and bring them to enlightenment. That’s the real project or the real goal of your life.

Please practice as much as you can. Life is not long and the nature of this life is that it is impermanent; death can happen at any time. Impermanence is the foundation of Buddha’s teachings, and was the last advice Buddha gave by showing the aspect of passing away.

With much love and prayers,
Lama Zopa


Essential Daily Practices

Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s advice for daily practice is as given below, along with references for the practices. Rinpoche’s complete advice can be found in Life Practice Advice. Rinpoche advised in a CPMT meeting in 2002:

“The conclusion is for everyone to practice the lamrim, which is the heart of the Dharma. Especially try to put all their effort to live with a bodhicitta motivation, in particular, to be kind to others, which is the most essential practice. They should aim to have the realization of bodhicitta as their main goal – of course, based on guru devotion.”

Start our day with How to Make My Lives Wish-fulfilling

Lama Zopa Rinpoche specifically compiled this practice for all his students to do in the morning as soon as they wake up. In 2017, Rinpoche said, “If you are my student, then you should do the morning motivation, How to Make My Lives Wish-Fulfilling.”


Make lamrim meditation our main practice

Make our main practice lamrim meditation based on a guru-yoga practice, either A Daily Meditation on Shakyamuni Buddha, Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, or Lama Chopa (Guru Puja). Lama Zopa Rinpoche said that the most important thing to do in our life is to focus on the lamrim and try to realize it. Rinpoche gave extensive instruction in the Life Practice Advice.

Resources on guru yoga practice texts

Resources for Lamrim meditation

  • Meditations from Light of the Path retreat with Lama Zopa Rinpoche: Sitting and Walking Meditations
  • Lamrim Year: Making Life Meaningful Day by Day by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche
  • Lamrim Prayers 
“There is nothing more than actualizing the lamrim. This is the best life, most meaningful life in the world, including tantra, which actually looks yummier. But lamrim is like the yummy cream on cake. Actually, lamrim is the cream!”
From a postcard Lama Zopa Rinpoche sent to a group of retreaters doing long retreat.
Additional practices that everyone should do

Additional practices that everyone should do everyday include:


Life Preliminary Practices

In addition to Essential Daily Practices, Rinpoche’s advice to students is a recommendation for some or all of the following Life Preliminary Practices, according to Rinpoche’s observation. These are done to collect merit and purify negative karma in order to create the conditions to achieve lamrim realizations followed by the tantric realizations. One can practice tantra before lamrim realizations for the imprints, but one must purify and collect merit to achieve the realizations.  The usual number to accumulate for each of the nine standard preliminary practices is 100,000. As Rinpoche is no longer able to offer advice on specific numbers to complete for each student, one could accumulate 100,000 of each one.

“You have received an extremely rare, precious human body just this once. Not only that, you have received a perfect human rebirth, which is rarer still. This perfect human rebirth gives you the incredible opportunity to experience happiness in your present and future lives—such as rebirth in a pure land where you can become enlightened very quickly; or to again find a perfect human rebirth, meet a perfectly qualified guru, receive Mahayana teachings, train your mind on the path, and achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. By doing these practices you create the merit to enjoy a long life, find happiness, get whatever you need now and in future lives, eradicate all mistaken states of mind, gain all realizations, and attain the ultimate happiness of liberation from samsara and full enlightenment.” Read the complete Life Preliminary Practice advice.

You can find Rinpoche’s advice, teachings and commentaries, and practice materials on the Preliminary Practices below.

The Nine Standard Preliminary Practices in the Gelug Tradition


Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

  • How to do Refuge as a Preliminary – forthcoming!

Practice Materials

Vajrasattva Practice

Practice Materials

  • Vajrasattva Mantras and Meaning | Download
  • A Short Vajrasattva Meditation: Purification with the Four Opponent Powers | Download
  • The Preliminary Practice of Vajrasattva | Download
  • Vajrasattva retreat sadhanas | Download
  • Heruka Vajrasattva Tsog Offering | Download


  • Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat by Lama Zopa Rinpoche | Download
  • Becoming Vajrasattva by Lama Yeshe | Download

Practice Materials

  • Confession of a Bodhisattva’s Downfalls to the Thirty-Five Buddhas and General Confession, 2020 | Download
  • The Preliminary Practice of Prostrations, 2011 | Download  | Audio
  • Prostration Instructions, Mantras, and Meditation, 2023 | Download
  • Bodhisattva’s Confession of Moral Downfalls – Poster | Download


Mandala Offering

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche


  • During Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s visit of Shakyamuni Buddha center in Taiwan in May 2016, Rinpoche gave an extensive explanation on mandala offerings, you can watch the videos or listen to MP3. | Video and Audio
  • How to Offer the Mandala | Read online 
Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga

Practice Materials

  • Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga: A Method of Practicing Ganden Lhagyama According to the Instructions of Lama Zopa Rinpoche 


Related Practices

Samayavajra (Damtsig Dorje) Practice
  • Samayavajra practice booklet | Download
Dorje Khadro (Vajradaka) Burning Offering

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

  • Dorje Khadro Preliminary Practice | Download

Practice Materials

  • Burning Offering to Dorje Khadro | Download
  • The Preliminary Practice of Dorje Khadro | Download


  • Burning Offering to Dorje Khadro teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche | Read online

Oral Transmission/Lung

Water Bowl Offering

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

  • How to Do Water Bowl Offerings as a Preliminary Practice | Download

Group Water Bowl Retreats

Tsa-tsas (relief sculpture of buddhas and deities)

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Online Resources

Practice Materials

  • Preliminary Practice of Tsa-tsa | Download

Where to Order Tsa-tsa Molds


Additional Preliminary Practices

These following additional preliminary practices were unique to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and Rinpoche emphasized them for students to deepen their practice of purification and creating merit, and to develop bodhicitta realizations.

Nyung Ne

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Practice materials


  • Abiding in the Retreat by Lama Zopa Rinpoche | Download 
  • Recognizing the False by Lama Zopa Rinpoche | Download
OM MANI PADME HUM recitation

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

  • Benefits of Reciting OM MANI PADME HUM  | Download
Four Immeasurable Thoughts recitation

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

  • How to Meditate on the Four Immeasurables as a Preliminary Practice | Download
Tonglen meditation

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

  • How to do Tonglen as a Preliminary Practice | Download
Golden Light Sutra recitation

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

  • Recite the Golden Light Sutra for World Peace | Download

Online Resources

Heart Sutra recitation

Practice Materials

  • Heart Sutra Practices and Instruction for Retreat | Download

Online Resources

Arya Sanghata Sutra recitation

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

  • Benefits of Reciting the Arya Sanghata Sutra | Download

Online Resources

Vajra Cutter Sutra recitation

Advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

  • Benefits of Reciting the Vajra Cutter Sutra | Download

Online Resources

Useful practice materials:

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