The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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A living Dharma for the West
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Intellectual Dharma has already reached the West. In many cases, Western professors know the subject better than you do. But words are not Dharma; we need something behind the words. We need the kind of energy force that can be developed organically only through living purely in the Dharma. That is truly the root of the Dharma and its spread to the West. I have great expectations that you are the people to do it; please, think about it. The Dharma we are trying to bring to the West is not simply intellectual Dharma. Intellectual Dharma is already there, in universities all over the world. I want you to understand. What we need is for the living experience of Dharma to touch the human heart organically and to eradicate people's dissatisfaction. This is the Western world's great need. Without your living in the Dharma, without your having a certain degree of experience, you cannot give Dharma to others. It is not possible. That is why,
when you live in the Sangha community, the abbot or gekö should be involved in deciding who goes where to teach. If you just do your own trip, you're in danger of turning Dharma into Coca-Cola. Of course, you need to be well educated so that when you go to different places to teach you will have at least an intellectually clean-clear comprehension of the subjects you are talking about. Otherwise, you might start spreading misconceptions, and then, instead of benefiting the Dharma, you will damage it. We are a serious phenomenon. Don't think you're playing games with Tibetan monks, with Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. This is not a joke. We should dedicate as much as we possibly can, in whatever way-words, deeds, intellect, meditation-for the sake of sentient beings; we should utilize our lives for their benefit. If you do whatever you do with sincerity, that is good enough. Without sincerity, many things become not good enough. There's no dedication. This program, the Enlightened Experience Celebration, was created principally to benefit monks and nuns. I thought it extremely important that my monks and nuns receive a truly complete education. Then I won't be worried; wherever you go, you will take the light of Dharma with you. That is the main point. And in addition, we organized this event so that lay students could also attend.
Let's stop here and continue tomorrow.
It is important that we consider how to present Dharma in the West. You can't just say, "Oh, this director invited me to come and give teachings. Okay, I'll just go." This has happened many times, but I'm not sure that it's a suitable situation. Therefore, I wanted to say a little about education at Nalanda Monastery. What is the purpose of Nalanda Monastery? It is a center for education, for Buddhist studies. Ideally, this means that eventually all the Sangha will become teachers. Come on! I want you to understand this. Now, being a teacher doesn't mean only being an intellectual words teacher. There are many different ways in which you can teach. Generally, however, I expect everybody to be well educated. There is a great demand for teachers in our centers; we are very short of teachers. Are you aware of this or not? Everybody should know this. Then you will put more energy into trying to benefit others instead of being lazy.
The world's need for Dharma teachers is so great. The way this should work is that centers that need teachers should send their requests to the monastery, and the abbot and gekö should decide who goes out to teach. That's a good idea; it prevents people from doing their own individual trips. Of course, the center director can specify the qualifications or even the person required—" He or she is best for us because of the way we communicate"— something like that. For people to do their own trip is not so good. Also, this is not some kind of competition; we are just trying to be as beneficial as possible. I feel sometimes that Western teachers are more suitable for Western beginners. They are oriented to the culture and may be more acceptable to new students: "This is just what I need; I can use this."
We should encourage Westerners to do this kind of thing. Of course, Tibetan lamas can still come to give advanced teachings, but there are limitations to this as well. Therefore, we should hurry to educate ourselves well so that we can be of maximum benefit to others. In our Sangha community, many students are already experienced in giving lam-rim courses. They have been teaching, and I'm very happy about that. They are growing. Some Sangha members have intuitively understood that they should teach; I didn't have to push them. But others don't understand that they should teach and they worry about it: "Lama said everybody has to teach. How could I possibly become a teacher?" Don't worry. Whatever your ability, just do as much as you can with your life. To my way of thinking, that's good enough. You don't necessarily have to push yourself to accumulate intellectual knowledge. We have room for people to serve the Buddhadharma in many different ways. In the future, if we organize the monastery situation well, benefiting others through your education will also provide your bread and butter. Do not feel that just because you cannot take care of yourself at the moment, life as a Tibetan Buddhist monk or nun means that you'll always be in economic trouble. That kind of mind arises sometimes; it's not so good. It's quite right to think about the situation, but many people in the world need teachers, and if you are well-educated, they will support you. If a center applies for a Sangha member to come and teach, the center should take care of that person's airfare, food, clothing, and stipend. Sangha should have a kind of big view. If you educate yourself well and serve others, others will take care of you; it's natural. You offer something, you are of benefit to others, others will benefit you. That's the cyclic nature of samsara. You people have to figure
out for yourselves a constructive approach to all this. I am concerned for your welfare, but since I'm too ignorant to take care of even myself, how could I possibly know what's best for your futures? Of course, we can quote Shakyamuni
Buddha, where in one sutra he guaranteed that even if the amount of arable land on earth had been reduced to the size of a fingernail, as long as his Sangha practiced purely, they would never go hungry. Is that true or not? Come on! It can't be true! Well, I don't know if Lord Buddha was correct there or not. I have some doubt as to whether those words were true or not, because in my observation, many Sangha who have been practicing and studying sincerely have encountered trouble in getting the means of living, such as food, clothing, and benefactors. Are there some who have experienced this kind of trouble? Well, in Western culture there's no custom of benefacting monks and nuns; it's difficult. These days, even in Tibetan culture it's difficult. It used to be that Tibetan monks and nuns had it pretty easy like that, but not any longer. I don't think we should go bananas worrying over whether or not someone will take care of us. These days all my Sangha are intelligent, they know what's going on in the world, they are educated to a certain extent… at least to primary school level! So who worries? You people are capable of taking care of yourselves.
We don't need two or three of everything, but what we do need is to take care of our bodies and not get sick. You should take care of your body. You don't need to try to lead an ascetic life, thinking you're a great meditator, thereby damaging your nervous system. On the one hand, you talk about your precious human rebirth, on the other, you destroy your body. That's stupid.
I am the servant of others
Monks and nuns should be practical in taking care of themselves, socially acceptable, and work for the benefit of the majority. If the Sangha cannot work for the benefit of others, then what's it all about? Honestly, you have to have the motivation, "I am the servant of others." Perhaps, instead of om mani padme hum, that should be our mantra. We should repeat over and over, "I am the servant of others, I am the servant of others…." I think I'm going to make this the monks' and nuns' mantra, make them repeat it a million times; make them do the retreat of this mantra, "I am the servant of others." Sometimes monks and nuns have wrong conceptions. They consider that to be holy you have to live alone, leading an ascetic life. That's not necessarily so; we don't need to do that. Some people have this fantasy that by becoming a Tibetan monk or nun they have become some kind of great yogi. What makes a great yogi is dedication to others. Without dedication to others, there's no way for you to become a great yogi or yogini. It's impossible. Maybe you think that serving others is impractical, that it doesn't work. It works, it works. There is less pain in your mind. If somebody asks you for a cup of tea, for some help, instead of pain, anger, and irritation, you feel bliss. If you get angry when someone
asks for your help, it shows you have no dedication. You should be practical. Sometimes lay people criticize monks and nuns because they think they're hopeless— they come home, eat and drink, but don't do anything to help. They don't even wash their own dishes; they leave them for others. They space out, say a few words about Dharma, blah, blah. Lay people don't understand. That is Western culture. I tell you, there is a big difference between the way Westerners look at Dharma and the way Eastern people do. Your parents don't accept what you're doing because they think you're hopeless, stupid, not taking care of your life. That's what they worry about. Your parents love you. They want you to be practical, to take care of yourself. Have you heard lay people criticize the Sangha? I have. They're right, up to a point. Don't think that we're always right and lay people are always wrong. Buddhadharma is practical, organic; it is something we can put into effect, here and now. Sometimes people have the misconception, "Ah, enlightenment is my goal," looking up into the sky with their hands folded at their hearts. "Up there is my husband, that is my Buddha, that is my Dharma, that is my Sangha. I don't care about anything down here." I call that fanaticism; their feet aren't on the ground. Be practical, okay? Fanaticism is ego, so arrogant, unreasonable, intangible; such people are simply dreaming.
Perhaps it's because in Tibetan Buddhism we say, For the sake of all mother sentient beings I should quickly become Buddha, therefore I'm going to practice… some sadhana or other. Maybe this sadhana way of thinking is a Western misunderstanding. I don't know. Perhaps Mahayana Buddhism produces spaced out sentient beings instead of constructive organic flowers… or perhaps I'm being too extreme? We should be aware of what lay people think. But I do understand that it can sometimes be a little paralyzing for a monk or nun to live in a community where the majority are lay people. You are the only one; you feel insignificant. You try to fulfill your Sangha obligations, but you are nobody. You try to compromise with the lay community, but that doesn't work either. I do understand. I don't want my Sangha to be put into that kind of situation, but environmental and economic realities sometimes force you into it. With Nalanda, we finally have an opportunity to live away from such situations, so now, at least, you won't be able to blame the conditions for your difficulties. A monastic environment is extremely important.
Sometimes I get the impression that some of my Sangha think they won't be able to keep their vows if they get a job; that if they work, they will become disasters as monks or nuns. That is a completely wrong attitude; it shows they are suffocated by ignorance. Not only are we human beings, but Lord Buddha has also given us method and wisdom. We should somehow be able to figure out how to put work and keeping our ordination together so that we avoid that suffocating alternative. Many students have given me this impression. I don't know if it's a true picture or not. Monasteries exist in the West. How do they do it? Those monks and nuns are human; they eat, they sleep, they work. That is a true picture. So why don't we follow their example. Perhaps those Christian monks and nuns who work and still manage to keep their ordinations are more capable than we Buddhists. We should be ashamed of ourselves! Why don't you all become
Catholic monks and nuns? Then you'd have no problems. I'm joking! Anyway, what I am saying is that I want you to use your wisdom. I cannot tell you what to do. I do trust you to use your method and wisdom to come up with some way of establishing a Western monastery where we can both take care of ourselves materially and do our duty according to the vinaya. Can you motivate yourselves to accomplish this? I want you to generate a strong motivation, otherwise, we won't make it. There are too many obstacles, too many hurdles. I expect mistakes to be made. Even in bringing Dharma to Tibet, many bodhisattvas were killed protecting their ordination. Do you know the history of Buddhism coming to Tibet? They were actually killed because they would not break their vows. If you compare your situation to that when Dharma came to Tibet, you will see how lucky you are. You have much better facilities and education and far easier lives than they did back then. You people are incredibly lucky. But I still want each one of you to be very strongly motivated at a personal level: "I myself (not we, but I) am responsible for bringing Dharma to the West. I've understood that Lord Buddha's wisdom is so powerful, it has brought me great satisfaction, and the world needs this more than anything else." That doesn't mean that you change completely overnight and tomorrow walk around like some crazy evangelist. Just be relaxed, but at the same time dedicated. Then you'll be happy, no matter what sort of difficult situation you find yourself in— happy because you're serving others. If you do not have dedication, every situation is painful for you because the fundamental human problem is the self-cherishing thought, not wanting to share anything with others, which is the very opposite of dedication. The dedicated attitude makes everybody brothers and sisters. Without it, others become thorns in your flesh; they hurt you, they hassle you, especially if you are living together with many other people. You feel others are a hassle, the place is so crowded, it's like a concentration camp, Lama Yeshe is like a dictator, he comes around in the mornings, saying do this and do that…. I am sure some of you might have had thoughts like this. If you have a dedicated attitude, even should people accuse you of something or give you a hard time, it actually helps; it truly helps you. Personally, I really believe that we humans need to go through some hardships in order to develop understanding. If you're always going around spaced out and everything's too easy, you'll never learn.
I learned only because Mao Tse Tung put me into such a learning situation. Otherwise, I was pretty easy-going. As long as my parents were giving me everything, my uncle was giving me everything, I never learned a thing. Later, I checked back to see if I'd learned any Dharma at that time. I hadn't; I was just full of intellectual word games. Mao made me face real life. That time I learned a lot.
Gratitude for Sangha
That's why I want you to be dedicated, but at the same time, happy. I don't understand why you're not happy. Being with each other, Sangha together, is such a warm, close feeling. I'm not a highly educated man, I'm not a highly realized person, but I feel so grateful just for the existence of other Sangha. We give each other strength. You have to understand, just by existing, you're helping each other. It seems that some of you don't understand this. In other words, perhaps you don't understand the value of Buddhadharma. Those who don't feel that the Sangha community is so wonderful and that its members help each other don't understand Buddhadharma; they don't understand what is Dharma and what is not Dharma. Especially at times like this, when many monks and nuns have gathered together, you should recognize and respect them as actual Sangha. Perhaps you can't respect each individual, "He is Sangha; she is Sangha," and take refuge, but according to the vinaya you absolutely must respect the Sangha community as the Sangha object of refuge. When you received vinaya teachings from Tara Tulku in Bodhgaya recently, I'm sure he told you that four monks or nuns together are Sangha, didn't he? Well, don't just leave it at that. Inside your heart you should have the recognition "That is the Sangha." Then you will feel respect. I feel that you are very fortunate just to have met other people who are at least trying to live in the 36 precepts of novice ordination. It's unbelievable. In the world today, it's so rare. Do you think those brothers and sisters trying to keep the 36 vows are rare or not? Yes; they're rare. And if you
understand the spiritual significance of this, you'll understand how valuable they are. I want you to understand: you are my brothers, you are my sisters, you are my husband, you are my wife, you are my dollars, you are my precious possessions, you are my everything! Everybody understands the value of those things, don't they? Well, each one of you is more valuable than all of those, more rare and precious than a million dollars. I feel I am so rich! It's true; I'm not joking. I really believe this. You people should feel extremely fortunate just being in this kind of situation. Look around— where on earth can you find such a situation? These days the world is becoming incredibly impure, full of garbage thoughts, superstition, and mutual hatred, so at least you people should try to feel compassion and loving kindness for one another instead of seeing each other as heavy burdens. You are the most fortunate people in the world.
Look at your present situation. In the morning you go to puja and they serve you tea there. As soon as that's over, your breakfast is ready. Then you go to teachings. After that, more tea is waiting. All you have to do is practice and take care of your mind; everything is there. Incredibly fortunate. Unbelievably fortunate. So, take advantage. If you have a negative attitude toward a group of Sangha, that's the worst bad karma you can create, I tell you. According to what I was taught, if you think, "I hate those international Sangha," you are creating very heavy karma. From the Buddhist point of view, criticizing the Sangha is the most negative thing you can do. How do you know, amongst a group of
Sangha, who is not a bodhisattva, who is not an arhat? I can't tell. Complaining, "These Western Sangha, they're no good, they're this, they're that…" is one of the worst things in the world you can do. You can point at individuals and say, "Lama Yeshe's no good," but when a group of seventy or eighty monks and nuns come together, how can you say they're no good? That's the heaviest karma you can create. Honestly, I tell you, how many people in the whole world are keeping these 36 vows? How many are even trying? It is very, very rare. Normally we say that monasteries are so good. Monasteries are empty buildings. "Monasteries are good; monastery life is good." An empty building is not a monastery.
A monastery is good because a group of people is putting incredible positive energy into living in organic purity. Without people, it's just concrete and wood. That's not a monastery. Monasteries produce so many learned scholars, so many saints, because the people who live there help each other. Wood doesn't produce scholars; water doesn't produce saints. Therefore, we're establishing Nalanda Monastery to produce many saints and scholars. That's why I called it Nalanda.
We can be just like the ancient Indian monastery Nalanda, which produced such great Indian pandits as Atisha, Naropa, and Shantideva. I really feel that our own monastery can produce such saints and pandits. I think so. I don't worry that the intellectual clarity of Buddhadharma can't reach the Western world. Westerners can comprehend anything that Tibetans can.
Let me say a few words about robes. For the past few years I've had the experience of travelling around the world, living with my Sangha and with students in the Dharma center communities. I feel great compassion for my monks and nuns.
Why? I'll tell you the reason. My monks and nuns try to be good human beings and keep their precepts responsibly, but when they go outside the center, people spit at them: "Oh, look at that poor man, that poor woman." I've seen it with my own eyes; it's incredible. I feel so sad. There's nothing wrong with those Sangha; the people who spit, they're the poor ones. Why should I put my students into that kind of situation, where in their own society they are viewed as disasters rather than with respect, where people regard them as garbage. Recognizing their profound human quality, people get ordained, but when they wear their robes, they get put down. I'm not sure it's worth it. You see, my understanding is that the Dharma we are bringing into the Western world should be Western Dharma, Inji Dharma, not Tibetan Dharma. Historically, Dharma never went from one culture to another without changing its external form.
Internally, of course, the Dharma never changes; the essence of the Buddhadharma remains pure. But you can't make Germans or Americans eat tsampa; their stomachs aren't made for it. They don't need these external things. From Western society's point of view, people wearing robes are considered bad human beings, an insult to the rest of society. We should be practical. I am not against your wearing robes. I wear them myself. I'd be sick if I had a negative attitude to what I wear every day. Well, I'm not sick; I'm happy with my robes. But what I'm saying is that when you are in your own country, working with and relating to people in regular society, I think it's stubborn to insist on wearing robes
when people are putting you down and calling you a bad human being. Then they criticize Buddhism: "Buddhism produces bad human beings." That's what they're going to say, isn't it? They'll say, "Buddhism creates hippies," because they think monks and nuns are not responsible citizens, are socially unacceptable. Then Lord Buddha gets a bad reputation; do you want to give Lord Buddha a bad reputation? We're serious people; we're not joking. You people are not practicing harma for Lama Yeshe; that's not the case. The Dharma you are bringing to the West is much bigger than just one person. You have to understand this. Psychologically, of course, each human being likes his or her own thing. For example,
I'm a Tibetan monk; I think the Tibetan way is the best in the world; I want you to become Tibetan style. Then, when you act and look Tibetan, I'm happy, because you're supporting me. That's the most stupid way of thinking imaginable; it has no basis in reality. I should be happy for you to be pizza-loving Italians; I am happy; I should be happy. A pizza-eating Italian who likes Dharma, whose mind is subdued, is incredible. And it's a true picture of Italians. Who wants artificial Italians? Anyway, they'll never change! When monks and nuns are in a monastery or a Dharma center, they wear their robes; fine. But when they go out, they put on exactly the same clothes that everybody else is wearing and don't look any different from lay people. That's dangerous; I'm not happy about this. You should somehow signify that you're a monk or nun so that people can recognize you as such, and so that you yourself will remember. That was Lord Buddha's intention in having the Sangha wear robes. The clothes you wear should signify that you're ordained, distinguish you from lay people, remind you of your obligations, and allow others to recognize you as a monk or nun. My conclusion is that you need to wear something so that both other people will recognize you as a follower of some kind of path and so that you yourself will feel different from the laity. That will make your behavior completely different.
We are not free from the influence of vibrations, so you should wear something that vibrates to show that you're a monk or nun. That will protect you from garbage thoughts. Therefore, I am saying that it is very, very important to change your outside appearance according to your own culture. Last year I surveyed what people at various different centers thought, and most Dharma students agreed that the Sangha needed to modify the traditional robes because in the West some people were upset by them. From my side I didn't feel the need for change; change requires thought. But the reality is that most Western Dharma students thought the Sangha should wear something different than traditional robes. So what can you say? You mean well; you want to give a good impression. But, in fact, you upset people, so what can you do? If you've had the experience of wearing robes in public in the West, you'll understand this well. Otherwise, you'll be thinking, "What is Lama talking about? We're happy here. We're so beautiful wearing our robes, I want to wear these robes, I want to wear what my guru wears, I don't want to wear something samsaric." However, you are from an entirely different culture. When Buddhism went from India to Tibet, the monks' robes changed completely; there's nothing Indian left. The same thing happened when Buddhism went to China and Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Of course, there are some similarities, but basically they are different. Why are they different? You cannot say their Dharma is bad Dharma. You cannot say that Tibetan Dharma is better, that it is better to wear Tibetan robes. That would just be an ego trip.
Because climates and cultures vary, people compromise and come up with something that suits their environment.
Let's agree that we need to consider making some changes in the robes and that slowly, slowly we'll check out how to do that. When you are here in Dharamsala, you can wear exactly the same robes as Tibetans wear; Tibetan people will be very happy. But you are not Tibetan; don't think you are Tibetan. You're going to spend most of your life in the West, in your own country. Therefore, think about it. For example, the shem-thab. Thai monks don't wear those as do we
Tibetans; they don't wear zens, either, so what's the big deal? The most important thing is that the robes you wear should signify, or identify, you as a monk or nun. Ultimately, of course, robes don't mean anything. We should experiment. We should invite some lay people to give their opinions on whether the Sangha should wear this or that. It's good for the people to judge. If the majority doesn't like you wearing these robes, if it makes them angry, is that
profitable or not? It's not so good if the way you dress upsets them. Lay people are very important when it comes to interacting with our monks and nuns. You can't say that monks and nuns are everything and that lay people are nothing, so therefore we're just going to do our own trip. You'd be wrong there. We are not beyond society. We are in society; we are linked with lay people. Lay people should also accept us. They're not stupid. They're concerned about Buddhadharma; they want Buddhadharma so much. There's a Tibetan admonition, "Do not do anything to destroy the laity's faith and devotion in the Dharma." Monks and nuns have to be aware of that and should not create the karma of destroying lay people's faith in the Dharma. Lord Buddha himself taught that the Sangha should be socially acceptable. Society should feel, "Monks and nuns are so good; they are our object of refuge." We should always remember that and act accordingly. Let's do a few questions and answers. Sometimes I get a bit extreme and talk nonsense, which just makes you angry. Well, I don't want to do that, so please express anything that will be of benefit to all of us.
Q. I think hair length, especially for women, may be an even more important issue than the robes.
A. That's true. I think some Sangha in the West have already started keeping their hair a little longer. We should understand why they do this rather than criticize them; we have some experience. Many nuns are working in society, some as center directors, and they've had to grow their hair a little in order to relate better to people they encounter. I feel that's perfectly acceptable; don't you? Good. It is very important that we understand each other; then there won't be problems amongst us. That's the best way. We should understand what each different country considers good behavior for monks and nuns and act accordingly, in order to benefit society.
Q. Lama, I hope that you will organize a meeting with lay people to discuss the robes.
A. Good idea. Lay people love Dharma, therefore, they love Sangha. They want their Sangha to have the best behavior in the world. We should feel that Sangha and lay people make up one society. Within a society there can be all kinds of different groups, but we should still feel the unity of being one family.
Q. If new-style robes were adopted, would they be the same in all Western countries?
A. We'd have to make a decision on an international level. When people from many different countries have agreed, then we can change. You don't need to wear Tibetan-style robes. But of course, we can do this gradually; there's no need for any radical changes. For example, even when we've changed, if some people still want to wear Tibetan robes in the monastery, okay, let them. But you have to think about what changes to make.
Q. Sometimes it's hard for a new monk to know how to behave.
A. Guidance has to come from the older monks, and even though we don't have any really old Western monks, our senior ones do have much more experience than those newly ordained. Historically, older monks have always taken responsibility to see that new ones are properly nurtured to facilitate their spiritual growth. I feel I should do more, but it's difficult for me to get around to all the places where there are Sangha. Therefore, older monks and nuns should take responsibility for the young ones. If you go to the monasteries in south India, you'll see the opposite to what you'd normally expect: that in making sure that they get educated and have the means of living, the older monks are almost servants to the young ones. So far we've not been able to do that, but we definitely should.
Q. How much contact should there be in the future between Western monks and nuns? Should we have different monasteries?
A. There should be separate monasteries. We already have some 50 monks and 50 nuns, so we should definitely have a broader vision. In the future we're going to have many more; both the monks' and the nuns' communities are going to grow… by thousands, millions! So we have to figure out how we're going to take care of them. If you check out why you got ordained, you can see that it's logical that others will also become monks and nuns. As our organization grows and
facilitates the spread of Dharma, as we produce more and better educated teachers, it's only natural that there'll be more monks and nuns. Therefore, it's your responsibility to create conducive conditions for the future Sangha. You may have faced difficulties coming up during this early time, but we have to establish better facilities for those coming after you, separate places for monks and for nuns. Basically, the nuns are responsible for the future nuns and the monks for the future monks, but since we're a Sangha community, we have to help each other. Nalanda Monastery in France is only the beginning. Not everybody wants to go to France. For one thing, the language is too much! So in the future, we're going to have Nalanda Monasteries in each European country, in Australia, in all Western countries. It will happen through the power of Buddhadharma, not just because I wish it. I just let go. Don't think Lama Yeshe wants a million monks and nuns. Who'd want all that trouble! But think about why you became monks and nuns; it's interesting. Then you can see how in the future many others will want to do it. Therefore, we should dedicate ourselves to creating better facilities for them. Getting back to the problem of older Western monks and nuns not taking care of the younger ones, I think this is partly a result of cultural influence. In Tibet, as I mentioned before, senior monks and nuns ake great care of the young ones. When I saw that the older Western Sangha didn't do this, I went into culture shock; I didn't understand that. It's not that we don't have older monks and nuns; we do. But they have no ambition to look after the new ones. What do you think about that? Let's hear from one nun and one monk.
Q. Well, it's not only that the older nuns don't want to take care of the new ones; sometimes the young ones don't want to be told what to do.
A. Yes, that's possible. What about the monks? Q. I've found that older monks have been helpful when I've asked. A. Yes, that's right. Perhaps if new monks ask older ones respectfully, they respond. We should develop good relationships with each other like that.
Q. When I was the gekö at Kopan, it was the older monks and nuns who created the most trouble, so from that point of view it was difficult to respect them.
A. Yes, that's a good example. Sometimes it's true that older monks and nuns don't co-operate for the benefit of the group— they make incredible rationalizations based on their own individual trips. I've seen it myself. But I hope that the situation is changing, that older monks are becoming more concerned for the benefit of the majority than for their own trips.
Q. Sometimes the older Sangha may not realize they're the senior ones; they might still think they're fairly new. But when you look behind you, you can see that there are many young ones there.
A. That's true; that's a good example. That definitely happens. They still think they're young. Anyway, I just want to emphasize again that I want the senior monks and nuns to take responsibility for ensuring that the future generations of Sangha are comfortable and well-educated for their own growth and for the benefit of others.
The Benefits of Being Ordained
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
This essay was prepared by Rinpoche for publication in Mandala, September-October 1996. It was initially dictated to Ven. Roger Kunsang, then amplified with the help of Ven. Paul LeMay.
If you talk to Westerners about the life of the Buddha and the 12 deeds— the circumstances of his birth, his life as a child, his marriage and the birth of his child, then his renunciation of the householder's life, becoming a monk, and so forth— they might think that ordination as a Buddhist monk or nun is only for Asians. Because Buddha lived in India, they might think that it's an aspect of Eastern culture unrelated to the West. Moreover, because Buddha lived 2 500 years ago, they might also think that ordination is no longer relevant today. This is common, a normal way to think for people who don't understand the mind or know about karma. It's the same when we describe the hell realms. Because the
Buddha explained them in ancient times, people now think that they're simply an outmoded concept. If the hells don't exist, it means that nobody is creating the karma to be reborn there. In other words, everybody must have developed stable realizations. Why does it mean that? Because in order never again to be reborn in the lower realms, you must have attained at least the third, or patience, level of the path of preparation. (There are five levels of the path to liberation; the path of preparation is the second of these. The path of preparation itself has four levels, of which patience is the third.) Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ also revealed living in ordination as a method of practice.
As a result, many Christian monasteries and nunneries were established, and over the past two millennia this still viable tradition has produced many saints. People who say that ordination is no longer relevant in the modern world misunderstand its purpose. This method was taught by both Buddha and Jesus to protect us from delusions, to prevent us from harming ourselves or others. As a result of the karma of not harming others, we receive the immediate benefit of
not being harmed by them, and experience great happiness and peace. Of course, there are long-term benefits as well: rebirth in the upper realms, liberation, and enlightenment. Nevertheless, some people will still ask why today, when lay people can study and practice Dharma and attain enlightenment, is it necessary to live an ordained life? It's true that some lay people can practice well, but that doesn't mean all lay people can practice well. Most lay people find it difficult. But just because Buddha and Jesus revealed the method of ordination doesn't mean that everyone should become monks or nuns either. Everybody can't become Sangha because everybody doesn't have the karma to become Sangha. To do so you need a lot of merit and no inner obstacles. If there are no obstacles in your mind, there will be no outer obstacles to your ordination. The main point here is that until you have developed a stable realization of the three principal aspects of the path in your mind, to practice Dharma properly you need to spend a lot of time away from the objects that induce your delusions to arise. This is especially true for beginners, but in fact applies to anybody not yet liberated from samsara. Hence, the need for monasteries and nunneries, caves and hermitages, and the discipline that goes along with living in such ascetic environments. And by living in places like those, you can easily see the
importance of morality. To actualize the fundamental paths, you need a great deal of study and meditation. For that you need much time and conducive circumstances. The most important thing is for your mind not to be distracted. The more negative karma you create, the more barriers you erect to your own realizations. That makes it much longer and more difficult for you to experience even samsaric happiness, let alone the bliss of liberation from samsara. Therefore, the more you live in pure ordination, the less negative karma you create. By renouncing life as a householder and living as Sangha, not only do you create less negative karma, but you also cut down a lot on external work and other activities. This leaves you much more time for meditation and study; you have fewer distractions. Thus, there are many advantages to being ordained: more time to study and meditate, more time to develop your mind. One of the most important meditations that you need to accomplish in order to really develop the path to enlightenment in your mind is mental quiescence. To realize shamatha, you need much discipline, protection, and morality; you have to eliminate many distractions. Even for an hour's good meditation you need to cut distractions, apply discipline, and renounce attachment. If you follow attachment, you can't meditate for even a minute. If your mind is occupied by
desire objects such as boyfriends or girlfriends, you can't meditate for even a second. So, on the basis of that simple example, you can understand how living in ordination as Sangha makes it much easier to practice. For all this then, the environment becomes very important. To maintain the inspiration to remain Sangha, to continue practicing, to develop your mind in the path to liberation and enlightenment, month by month, year by year, to continue as a beginner whose mind is not stabilized in the three principal aspects of the path or calm abiding and so forth, you need the right situation. The environment has a strong effect on your mind. It controls the mind of the person who, let alone having no realizations, doesn't even practice the lam-rim. Even if you have an excellent understanding of the lam-rim teachings themselves, if you don't practice, external objects will influence, control, overpower, and overwhelm your mind.
Whether you are a lay person or ordained, without choice you will seek out and run after objects of attachment. But as soon as you start to practice, to meditate on, the three principal paths— especially the basic one, renunciation— your mind becomes more powerful than external objects. The moment you begin to apply the teachings of the Buddha in daily life, your mind starts to become more powerful than external objects and can overcome their attraction, no matter what those objects may be: living beings or non-living things, handsome people, beautiful flowers, whatever. Why? Because while you are practicing the lam-rim, your delusions are under control. As beginners, you need both to practice lam-rim strongly and to keep away from disturbing objects. Your minds are weak because since beginningless time they have been habituated to attachment, not to the path to enlightenment. Therefore, your delusions are very strong, especially when you're surrounded by disturbing objects. Your intention or desire to seek liberation is very weak, but your wish for samsara, objects of delusion, pleasure, and desire is very strong. Therefore, you need strong lam-rim meditation to
subdue, to control, your mind, your attachment, and at the same time you need to retreat, to keep your distance from objects of attachment. If you don't withdraw from the internal suffering of attachment and desire, then living in
ordination surrounded by objects of desire is like trying to get cool by sitting in front of a fire. So of course, setting up a good external environment for Western Sangha is one thing, but individual Sangha members choosing to stay there is another. We can establish a perfect environment, but individual monks and nuns can decide not to stay there and stay instead in the wrong environment. Then, if your minds are weak, if you have no realizations or stability in the path, you will be overwhelmed by external objects. Delusions will take over your mindsu will follow the delusions, and you will, therefore, be unable to practice Dharma or live in your vows. Then, on the basis of this fundamental error, instead of enjoying your life and feeling how fortunate you are when you think of all the advantages that you will experience— the good results of liberation and enlightenment, the absolute certainty of a good rebirth no matter
when you die— your life will become so difficult, and living in ordination will seem like living in prison. Morality is a passport to success, a guarantee for an upper rebirth. It's like a university degree that guarantees respect and a
good job. The immediate, urgent thing is to stop rebirth in the lower realms: not only does morality guarantee you that, but it is also the basis, or foundation, for liberation and enlightenment. Therefore, it is extremely necessary to establish the right environment for practice. The Buddha explained the many benefits of ordination in his sutra teachings and they are also enumerated in the lam-rim. In the twice-monthly so-jong ceremony, we recall the shortcoming of breaking our vows and receive inspiration by reciting these benefits. Such benefits include enjoying the glory of a radiant body, effortless fame, others' praise of our good qualities, and the gaining of happiness. If your moral conduct is pure, others will not harm you. This is an important point to note: to be harmed by others, you must have created the cause, that is, you must have harmed them. You should think of the logic of this. Just as a blind person cannot see,
neither can an immoral person be liberated. Those who do not live in morality are like people without legs, who cannot walk wherever they wish. Just as a vase meant for holding jewels cannot hold anything if it is broken, similarly, since morality is the basis for all realizations, if you break your vows, you will be unable to achieve any Dharma realizations. Without the foundation of morality, there is no way to attain the sorrowless state of nirvana. These are but a few of the benefits taught by the Buddha and recited during so-jong. It is the responsibility of each monk or nun to make a plan to protect him-or herself by living in the right environment. That is the purpose of monasteries and nunneries; that's why there are vinaya rules. They help protect the mind. By protecting, guarding, your mind, you free yourself from all problems, obstacles, and suffering, ultimately liberating yourself from the oceans of suffering of each samsaric realm. You fulfill all your aspirations for happiness and bring much happiness to all sentient beings as well. Many of the precepts in the vinaya that tell you what to do and what not to do were given by the Buddha in order to protect the minds of others. If you follow the vinaya rules, you prevent others from criticizing the Sangha, which, karmically speaking, is a very heavy object. Negative karma created with the Sangha as its object is extremely grave.
If, however, the Sangha is careless with sentient beings' minds, happiness, and suffering, it is easily possible to provoke their criticism. Therefore, since you, the Sangha, are responsible to guide the laity, you should follow the vinaya correctly. If you do, others will generate faith in their minds toward the Sangha, planting in their minds the seeds of liberation and enlightenment. It may even inspire them to follow the path by taking ordination themselves, since normally, sentient beings follow the Buddha's example of how to practice Dharma. Being Sangha makes others respect you, and thereby, they create much merit. The more purely you live in your ordination, the greater will be your power of success when you pray for others. Your prayers and pujas on behalf of others will be more likely to succeed. If you are living purely, you can achieve the result more easily, the mantras you recite will be more powerful.
The deities, buddhas, and Dharma protectors have to listen to your requests, have to help you. Because of your purity, they have no choice. Even if you don't make requests, they naturally have to serve and help you. Also, since your life is pure, when sentient beings make offerings to you, they create even more merit, and also there is no danger to yourself in your accepting their offerings. If, as it says in the teachings, you do not live purely and then eat what is offered to you, it is like drinking lava or molten iron. It is said that you'd be better off consuming molten iron than consuming offerings made by others out of devotion. Also, when you teach, you will have a much greater effect on
people's minds than do lay people when they teach; there's a big difference. The people receiving the teaching see that the teacher him-or herself is living in renunciation. Lay people respect what you are doing, leading a life that they themselves cannot. Recognizing a quality that is hard to achieve, they will respect you for it. Also, lay students should learn to regard the Sangha in this way and allow devotion to arise. If lay people think that the Sangha do not have any special qualities and fail to make offerings to or support the Sangha, they miss out on a great chance to create good karma. If lay people do not protect their own mindso not practice morality themselves, even when they try to help others, they will be unable to offer them perfect service. When trying to help others, problems and difficulties will always arise because of ego and the three poisonous minds. Without Dharma practice, one can't really offer perfect service to others without running into problems. Whether one is the leader of a country or doing some other kind of public service, sooner or later problems will arise. Even in normal daily life it is like this: without morality, without
protecting your mind, without some kind of discipline, you can't really find peace, satisfaction, happiness, or fulfillment in your heart. If there were not a big advantage to being ordained, if it were not extremely important, why would Guru Shakyamuni Buddha have set that example? According to the Mahayana teachings, Buddha's showing that he reached enlightenment at Bodhgaya was not really when he became enlightened. In reality, he reached enlightenment an inconceivable number of eons ago. The reason he went through the 12 deeds— including renouncing the family life, shaving his head, and becoming a monk— and taught the four noble truths was to teach us how to practice Dharma. And as I said before, it is not only Buddhism that teaches its followers to live as ordained persons in monasteries and nunneries. Also, not only Buddhism teaches the attainment of the nine levels of meditative concentration and the development of shamatha. This practice is also common to Hinduism, where morality and discipline are also practiced along with renunciation, and can be accomplished without taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha by simply developing detachment to pleasure, renunciation of the desire realms, and thinking of the shortcomings of being in the form realm. Finally, by thinking of the shortcomings of remaining at any of the first three of the four levels of the formless realm, they attain what's called the "peak of samsara." But they cannot renounce samsara entirely; that's not taught in Hinduism. There's no mention of ultimate liberation, the five paths, or emptiness. And without an understanding of the Prasangika
view, the highest of the four schools of Buddhist philosophy, there's no way to free yourself from samsara. Nevertheless, by studying the methods of other religions, without even taking into account the Buddhist way, you can see the great importance they too place on ordination, morality, and discipline. Therefore, generalizing that in the West, nobody should get ordained and everybody should practice as lay people is a wrong conception. This misunderstanding arises both from not really knowing what Dharma is, especially karma, and much more importantly, from lacking meditation experience or a realization of samsaric suffering, especially that of the lower realms, impermanence, and death. Even if a person has some understanding of Dharma but it is merely intellectual, then depending on the individual, the person's mind will remain the same, or get worse; the delusions can become even stronger than they were before. Thus, the person leads his or her life according to delusion: delusion becomes one's refuge, one's best friend, one's guru. In this way, people's lives become very difficult and confused. Even if you are ordained, externally you might appear to be Sangha, with a shaved head, but inside you may be the opposite. Of course, nobody but yourself makes your life difficult; you imprison yourself in samsara through following delusion. Then, because of your experiences, which are actually the result of your not having practiced Dharma continuously, you start telling everybody else that it is not a good idea to be a monk, that it is better to practice Dharma as a lay person. In Tibet we make tsa-tsas, clay images of buddhas and deities usually made from metal molds. >From one mold we can make thousands of images. Making yourself a faulty mold by not practicing Dharma and then trying to cast others in your mistaken image is a bad way of making tsa-
tsas. Here's what makes it difficult to lead the life of a monk or nun. If you set your heart on attaining the bliss of nirvana, your life becomes easy; even if you run into problems, you can bear hardships with pleasure; they're not important to your mind. If, however, your goal is samsaric pleasure, then even if other people don't cause problems, you make your own life difficult. Even if others consider something to be okay, in your mind you see it as too hard.
Therefore, how you find living in your ordination depends on the goal that's in your heart. If you change your goal from samsara to liberation or enlightenment and keep it there for 24 hours a day, you'll have no problem. If your heart is clear, your life will not be torn. Naturally, you can't have both samsara and nirvana. As the Kadampa geshes liked to say, you can't sew with a two-pointed needle. You can't seek both the happiness of this life and the happiness of Dharma. If you try, what you lose is the happiness of Dharma. Therefore, you cannot generalize and say that these days, especially in the West, ordination is irrelevant and everybody should practice as lay people. That is completely
A Life Well Lived
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
During the Most Secret Hayagriva retreat at Vajrapani Institute, September– October, 1997, Lama Zopa Rinpoche offered the students the following advice. It came during Rinpoche's reading of a long commentary to the Most Secret Hayagriva sadhana, where it elaborates on the refuge section:
Until we attain the state of the All-Pervading Lord Samantabhadra,
I and all sentient beings without exception equaling the limitless sky
Take refuge in the Three Jewels, the essence of rare sublimity,
And in the entire assembly of mandala deities.
From beginningless samsara right up to this very second, my kind mother sentient beings and I have been under the control of the three poisonous minds. Motivated by the three poisonous mindse have created various karmas. As a result, we have been taking various bodies from the peak of samsara down to the lowest realm, the vajra hell, and have been experiencing constantly the unbearable sufferings of samsara in general, and those of the three lower realms in particular. Who has the power to save me and my kind suffering mother sentient beings from all this? Only the Guru Triple Gem, now abiding before me. Please, Guru Triple Gem, right now, protect me and my kind mother sentient beings from the extremely terrifying sufferings of samsara, particularly those of the three lower realms. From this moment on, until I see the face of Buddha Samantabhadra, I will never abandon my object of refuge, the precious and sublime Triple Gem, no matter what happens in my life— good or bad, happiness or suffering.
The Tibetan terms used here in the commentary, zang-ngän, can be interpreted in different ways. Generally, zang means good and ngän means bad, but they can also mean pure and impure, or happiness and suffering. Broadly, when related to our lives, good can mean having an easy life, where things go smoothly, and bad can mean a difficult life, where we encounter many obstacles and problems. However, what is good or what is bad depends upon the individual's interpretation.
From the Dharma point of view, if you spend your life creating more virtue than non-virtue, that's a good life. If last year you created more positive than negative karma, that was a good year; if yesterday you created more merit than negativity, that was a good day. Even if you spend only half your time in virtue, that's still pretty good. It just depends on how you look at it. If you compare yourself with someone who creates negative karma 24 hours a day, relatively, creating a few hours' virtue every day is a good life. A quarter of a day's virtue is obviously better than none at all. So that's the general definition of the good life and the bad: the relative proportion of positive karma to negative. If, during a 24-hour stretch, you are able to collect more virtue than non-virtue, then, even though you might feel exhausted, even though you might have almost died practicing Dharma, your life that day was good. Look at Naropa, for example. He had to undergo twelve great and twelve lesser hardships in order to fulfill the instructions of his guru, Tilopa. Nevertheless, his was the best of all possible lives. Milarepa, too, had to face many difficulties.
Under the orders of his guru Marpa, three times he had to construct and then immediately tear down that nine-story tower, all by himself. He was never allowed to come to teachings or initiations with the other students, was always beaten and scolded, and never heard any praise, such as, "Oh, you are such a good disciple," or, "You have done excellent practice." Despite accomplishing whatever task he was set, all he ever saw was the wrathful aspect of his teacher.
However, by following Marpa's advice to the letter and never allowing the slightest negative thought about him to arise, Milarepa attained enlightenment in that very lifetime. When you think about what constitutes a good life and what constitutes a bad, Milarepa's was the very best. It's very important to know clearly the difference between a good life and a bad one. If your connotation is incorrect, if you have your own hallucinated opinion about it, you'll get very confused.
You'll go in the wrong direction, and as a result your mind will finish up empty of attainments, empty of realizations— completely empty of anything worthwhile. Thus, you can interpret good and bad according to Dharma wisdom, the right nderstanding of the lam-rim and karma, or according to the view of attachment, ego, and self-cherishing. Naturally, these two interpretations are completely opposite. Attachment's connotation of good and bad in particular is diametrically opposed to that of wisdom. This is where the confusion lies. If your faith in and understanding of Dharma are too weak, you'll find it easier to believe attachment's interpretation; if your faith and understanding are strong, you won't find it so difficult to follow wisdom's definition of good and bad. Generally speaking, common people in the world at large follow attachment. To them, a good life is one where success is measured by external development— the accumulation of more, more, more: wealth, possessions, cars, friends, family, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so forth— external, visible signs of prosperity. According to attachment, this is the best
kind of life to lead. But what's behind this quest? Actually, what everybody wants is peace, happiness, and satisfaction in their hearts and minds. That's what everybody is looking for. The trouble is, most people don't know how to find it. The only method they have for finding fulfillment is external development. That's all they know because they lack a Dharma education. So, even though they want peace of mind and satisfaction, they have no method other than the external one. No matter what they do, they always finish up, as the Rolling Stones so aptly put it: "I can't get no satisfaction." Say you spend years, perhaps your entire life, in retreat, or living in a monastery or nunnery— adhering to moral disciplines, keeping preceptsg a great deal of comfort and the pleasures of this life in order to lead a pure life. If you haven¥ renounced attachment, your mind will suffer a lot. From my point of view, that's still a good life. Because you have not freed your mind from the attachment clinging to this life, not separated it from worldly concerns, not made your mind healthy, you don't enjoy your practices or enjoy engaging in discipline. If, rather
than associating with virtuous friends and good practitioners, you choose instead to stick to attachment and be friends with the eight worldly dharmas, then, even though physically your body may be in retreat or in a monastery, you won't
experience peace or happiness in your heart. As long as your mind is friendly with the attachment clinging to this life and the thought of the eight worldly dharmas, you will not be able to give up this life's pleasures and comfort in order to practice Dharma, follow morality and the advice of your virtuous friend, or offer service to the monastery or to the other monks and nuns. It is difficult for you to serve any sentient being when your mind is stuck in attachment instead of Dharma. However, even though your mind makes it hard for you to enjoy your life or find happiness in your heart, if you still try to practice morality and follow monastic discipline, which supports and guides your mind and protects it from obstacles, it's still a good life. Similarly, when you have trouble staying in retreat, offering service to your virtuous friend, or working for sentient beings, if you persevere, you are again ensuring that your life
will be good. Why? Because the merit you create will always bring good results. If you are motivated more by attachment than by wisdom, you may not find happiness or satisfaction in your heart and mind when you do your practices or keep your vows. Nevertheless, you are still leading a good life because what you are doing will bring the result of a good rebirth in your next life. Even if your mind is not completely pure, not completely renounced, not completely free of the thought of the eight worldly dharmas, the attachment clinging to this life, not completely ascetic, the result of your practice will definitely be good. Therefore, your life is a good one. Of course, it takes time to develop a fully renounced mind. It takes strong, continual, intensive meditation, especially on impermanence and death as related to karma and the sufferings of samsara, particularly those of the lower realms, and on the preceding lam-rim meditations on the perfect human rebirth: the eight freedoms, the ten richnesses, the difficulty of receiving it, how it is highly useful, and how it is difficult to find again. But the more strongly renounced your mind is, the further behind you leave
the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas, the attachment clinging to this life, the greater the peace, happiness, and satisfaction you will find in your heart. Similarly, the extent to which the eight worldly dharmas— praise and criticism, good reputation or bad, receiving material things or not, finding happiness and comfort or problems and discomfort— disturb you depends on to what extent your mind is following attachment. For example, the more you cling to being liked or well thought of, the more painful you will find being criticized; the stronger your wish to feel comfortable, the more you will hate discomfort. When things happen that attachment doesn't like— the opposites of the four desirable situations— the more disturbed you get, the greater the pain in your heart, the bigger your problems appear. But even though you have not completely renounced the attachment clinging to this life, even though your heart is not
completely detached from the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas, even though you don't enjoy being in the monastery or nunnery or living in your ordination, as long as you try to maintain your practice, you are still living a good life; your efforts will yield the excellent fruit of a good rebirth in your next life. That's what I call a good life. If you don't see it that way, you might decide to give it all up: "Oh, Dharma practice hasn't made me happy. After all these years of studying Tibetan Buddhism, taking teachings from the most qualified lamas, living in the monastery, and keeping my ordination, I still haven't found satisfaction or happiness in my heart. Perhaps I should go to a mosque and try Islam." Then you abandon everything you've been doing and try living without rules or discipline, a completely free young guy or gal. You go from trying to free yourself from attachment to doing the opposite— living by delusion.
Of course, I'm generalizing. I'm not referring to everybody who has disrobed. Yet this is what commonly happens when people change their life. Still, it doesn't matter how excited you are, how much happiness you think you've found in external pleasures, you have to ask yourself: is this happiness from the Dharma point of view or from the point of view of attachment? You should analyze what you experience as happiness in this way. So, even though you are excited to be free or to have physical comfort, great wealth, and many friends, your life is motivated by an uncontrolled mind, and you must consider the karmic result. If you don't analyze your life according to motivation and result but instead simply look at what's going on in your immediate surroundings, it may appear all right; it may look like you're enjoying yourself. But no matter how firmly you believe that you are happy and enjoying a good life, it's a complete hallucination. Even the happiness is an hallucination.
It is only if you don't think of your motivation or future karmic results that your life seems to be happy. A truly happy life is one that has a positive motivation and a positive result. From my point of view, from the Dharma point of view, that's a happy life. Naropa and Milarepa, who underwent such great hardships following their gurus' orders, had fantastic futures, the best futures. Theirs were the best of all possible lives, even though they had to bear so many difficulties. Nevertheless, you can't purify your mind in just one day. You can't all of a sudden detach yourself from the attachment clinging to this life simply by living in a monastery or a nunnery or by becoming a monk or nun. It
takes time. So until that happens, you too might have to bear many hardships. But if you don't meditate continuously and intensively on the graduated path of the practitioner of lower capacity, especially on impermanence and death and the perfect human rebirth, you will never be free from attachment. In the meantime, you should enjoy living in morality, keeping your ordination, adhering to the monastic disciplines. All this protects your own mind and brings great
benefit to others. Of course, the discipline you follow ought to be of benefit to your mind; it was created for that purpose. Thus, it is completely different from, for example, military discipline. The disciplines followed in the great monasteries of Sera, Ganden and Drepung and in the Upper and Lower Tantric Colleges were devised by incredibly learned holy beings in order to benefit the minds of those who adhered to those disciplines in order to develop their minds on the path to enlightenment. Other sentient beings benefit, too, because while you are practicing morality, you are abstaining from harming them. These are the aims of monastic discipline. Therefore, while you are living under such conditions, even though part of your mind might be telling you that this style of life brings you no happiness or satisfaction, you should recollect the results that your practice will bring. Since you are abiding in the morality of not
killing, not stealing, and so forth, you know that there will be a good karmic result, that you will experience happiness in the future. Therefore, even though you don't feel happiness in your heart right now, you can be sure that you will in the future. That's the main point I am trying to emphasize. These days, however, especially in the West, the only goal seems to be, "Does this make me happy right now?" That's the main goal: me, happy, now. It has to be right now, this very moment, today. Then on top of that comes the old-style psychology of cherishing yourself, pumping yourself up to feel important, the daily affirmation, and so forth. However, the best way of taking care of yourself, the best way of loving yourself, is to practice Dharma. When you practice Dharma, you are not rejecting yourself but rather looking after yourself in the best possible way. As you develop renunciation, you are liberating yourself from samsara. That's exactly what you need: without liberation, you will experience suffering continuously, again and again, without end. Meditating on emptiness is also the best way of taking care of yourself: developing the right view, you
cut the root of samsara. What need, then, to mention generating bodhicitta, which leads you to the ultimate happiness of enlightenment. Beyond the three principal aspects of the path, what else do you need? What better than this is left for you to do? What higher goals can you achieve? What could possibly be better than liberation from samsara and enlightenment? What better way is there of taking care of yourself? Whenever we practice Dharma in our daily lives, we're taking care of ourselves in the best possible way. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama often says, if you're going to be selfish, be smart about it. That means if you want to be happy, you should serve others, benefit others, avoid giving them harm. That's the best way of ensuring your own happiness and of making your life successful. This is what His Holiness means when he talks about "wise selfishness." What I'm saying is similar. Without the practice of Dharma, there is no happiness; without the practice of Dharma, you will never be happy. Therefore, the best way to find happiness, the best way to take care of yourself, the best way to look after yourself is to practice Dharma. Whenever you practice Dharma, you collect virtue; the infallible result of virtue is happiness— not only this life's happiness, but happiness in many lives to come. Karma is certain; good karma definitely brings happiness. Methods for happiness other than
Dharma are unreliable. Actually, other than Dharma, there are no methods for happiness. You can never achieve happiness from a method that is not Dharma. If it's not Dharma, it's non-virtue, and the only possible result of that is suffering. Therefore, whenever we practice Dharma in our daily lives, we are really taking care of ourselves in the best possible way, really loving ourselves. The only possible result of that is happiness. Even if your attitude is simply that of seeking happiness for yourself— better future lives or your own liberation from samsara— you are still taking care of yourself and leading a good life. And if you are offering service to other sentient beings but finding
no happiness in your life because your mind is impure, because you have not yet conquered ego and attachment, not yet renounced samsara, at least you are working for others. As long as you are working for the happiness of other sentient beings, you are still leading a good life. Still, as above, you might feel, "I'm not enjoying this life; my heart isn't happy," or "My motivation is so impure," and as a result, stop working for others. If you then go and do something else, something which benefits neither yourself nor others, you will lose even the small benefit you were offering others through the efforts of your body, speech, and mind, and your life becomes a complete waste of time. Compare these two: totally wasting your life, and doing something beneficial for others even with an impure motivation. If what you do becomes useful for others, you're still living a good life; others receive happiness from what you do. If you stop
doing that and instead do something that has no benefit whatsoever, you completely waste the energy of your body, speech, and mind. Everything you have spent on food, shelter, medicine, and clothing from the time you were born up until the present is rendered completely useless; it didn't benefit you, it didn't benefit others. Not only do you waste everything that you yourself have done, but you also waste everything that your parents did. For all those years, from the time of your conception up to the present, they sacrificed their lives to look after you. They worked so hard, to the point of exhaustion, with great concern, fear, and worry for your welfare. If you now spend your life doing something that brings no benefit to yourself or others, all your parents' efforts will be completely wasted. Therefore, we should rejoice that we have met the precious Buddhadharma, especially the lam-rim, which integrates the entire collection of the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha into a coherent whole that allows us to practice without confusion and to attain the supreme goal of enlightenment. Through practicing the lam-rim, by purifying our negative karma and obscurations and
accumulating merit through, for example, reciting the Vajrasattva mantra or the names of powerful deities, we can eradicate all our wrong conceptions, complete all the realizations of the path, especially bodhicitta, and work perfectly for all sentient beings. Every day, by listening to and reflecting and meditating on the lam-rim we benefit our lives enormously. By reading the lam-rim teachings for even a few minutes, a few seconds, we plant the seed of enlightenment in our minds. In those few moments of reading, we are also bringing great benefit to other sentient beings. And apart from meditating on the path, we can also offer service to sentient beings in many other ways. There is no question, therefore, that we should rejoice. So, going back to the commentary, "… no matter what happens in my life, pure or impure" means that you must take refuge at all times. If you have broken your vows, or even if you are not a precept-holder but have created any of the ten non-virtuous actions or other negative karma, you still need to take refuge. In fact, at those times you should take refuge even more. You can't think, "I've created negative karma, I'm hopeless,"
and just give up, stop practicing Dharma. You still want happiness; you still don't want suffering. Therefore, at such times, you should take refuge more strongly than ever. So whatever happens in your life, pure or evil, good or bad, happiness or suffering, take refuge— not just by mouth, not merely by words, but from the very bottom of your heart, beseech the Guru Triple Gem, "Please guide me, right now." Then, with this thought in mind, recite, "I and all sentient beings without exception equaling the limitless sky…" and so forth. This verse shows us how to take strong refuge. When you pray, the words that come out of your mouth and what you feel in your heart should be in harmony. What you say and what you feel should be identical; you must abide in the meaning of the words. The main point of what I've been trying to say is that as long as you are living in your ordination or in a monastery or nunnery, even though you may not find happiness or satisfaction in your heart, your life is still worthwhile; it is still a good life, because the result of the good karma you are creating will be happiness in future lives. Not in just one life, but in many future lives. So even though you find life difficult and feel that you have sacrificed a lot of comfort and pleasure, your Dharma practice will definitely ensure a good future for you. In the long run, you will receive much happiness, good rebirths, liberation, and enlightenment. Therefore, even if you find it difficult to practice and do not enjoy it, please do not become discouraged.
About the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive
The Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive (LYWA) is the collected works of Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. The Archive was founded in 1996 by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, its spiritual director, to make available in various ways the teachings it contains. Distribution of free booklets of edited teachings is one of the ways. Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche began teaching at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 1970. Since then, their teachings have been recorded and transcribed. At present the LYWA contains about 6,000 cassette tapes and approximately 40,000 pages of transcribed teachings on computer disk. Some 4,000 tapes, mostly teachings by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, remain to be transcribed. As Rinpoche continues to teach, the number of tapes in the Archive increases accordingly. Most of the transcripts have been neither checked nor edited. Here at the LYWA we are making every effort to organize the transcription of that which has not yet been transcribed, to edit that which has not yet been edited, and generally to do the many other tasks detailed below. In all this, we need your help. Please contact us for more information:
The Archive Trust
The work of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive falls into two categories: archiving and dissemination. Archiving requires managing the audiotapes of teachings by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche that have already been collected, collecting tapes of teachings given but not yet sent to the Archive, and collecting tapes of Lama Zopa's on-going teachings, talks, advice and so forth as he travels the world for the benefit of all. Tapes are then catalogued and stored safely while being kept accessible for further work. We organize the transcription of tapes, add the transcripts to the already existent database of teachings, manage this database, have transcripts checked and make transcripts available to editors or others doing research on or practicing these teachings. Other archiving activities include working with videotapes and photographs of the Lamas and investigating the latest means of preserving Archive materials. Dissemination
involves making the Lamas' teachings available directly or indirectly through various avenues such as booklets for free distribution, regular books for the trade, lightly edited transcripts, floppy disks, audio-and videotapes, and articles in Mandala and other magazines, and on the FPMT web site. Irrespective of the method we choose, the teachings require intensive editing to prepare them for distribution. This is just a summary of what we do. The Archive was established with virtually no seed funding and has developed solely through the kindness of many people, some of whom we have mentioned at the front of this booklet. Our further development similarly depends upon the generosity of those who see the benefit and necessity of this work, and we would be extremely grateful for your help. The Archive Trust has been established to facilitate this work and we hereby appeal to you for your kind support. If you would like to make a contribution to help us with any of the above tasks or to sponsor booklets for free distribution, please contact us at our Brookline address. The Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive is a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible, non-profit corporation dedicated to the welfare of all sentient beings and totally dependent upon your donations for its continued existence. Thank you so much for your support.
Last November we published a small report on the activities of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive entitled LYWA Booklets: What people are saying about them, in which we quoted much of the unsolicited feedback we have received since we started publishing and distributing booklets free of charge. There are a few of these left, so please let us know if you would like to see one (they contain no teachings, just what some people have said about our work). But to give you an idea, here are a couple more comments that have come in since that time:
"Thank you for your donation of 70 copies of Lama Yeshe's Becoming Your Own Therapist. My senior literature students ate it up. For most, it was their first direct contact with the Dharma, for others it clarified vague understandings.
For myself, Becoming... and Lama Zopa's Virtue and Reality have been miraculous. Sometimes the truth needs to be heard in 83,999 ways before you finally get it. Thanks to Lama Zopa, Lama Yeshe, FPMT and yourself, life has become beautiful again."
— Literature teacher, California, USA
"Congratulations on publishing a very brilliant book (Virtue and Reality). I am sending you some money. If you can spare up to twelve more copies, I'd love to give them to my Dharma friends in our group. This is one of the best expositions on emptiness in print. Plus the first part. The whole thing is completely immediate. Thanks."
— Educator, England As mentioned on the preceding pages, we rely solely upon donations to maintain the Archive, get teachings transcribed, and edit, publish and distribute them. Please support our efforts to benefit others in this way. We would also be grateful for your feedback. Please send us your thoughts on the teachings we make available and your suggestions as to what you would like to see published.
Thank you again.
What to do with Dharma teachings
The Buddhadharma is the true source of happiness for all sentient beings. Books like this show you how to put the teachings into practice and integrate them into your life, whereby you get the happiness you seek. Therefore, anything containing Dharma teachings or the names of your teachers is more precious than other material objects and should be treated with respect. To avoid creating the karma of not meeting the Dharma again in future lives, please do not put
books (or other holy objects) on the floor or underneath other stuff, step over or sit upon them, or use them for mundane purposes such as propping up wobbly tables. They should be kept in a clean, high place, separate from worldly writings, and wrapped in cloth when being carried around. These are but a few considerations. Should you need to get rid of Dharma materials, they should not be thrown in the rubbish but burned in a special way. Briefly: do not incinerate such materials with other trash, but alone, and as they burn, recite the mantra om ah hum. As the smoke rises, visualize that it pervades all of space, carrying the essence of the Dharma to all sentient beings in the six samsaric realms, purifying their mindsg their suffering, and bringing them all happiness, up to and including enlightenment. Some people might find this practice a bit unusual, but it is given according to tradition.
Thank you very much.
Through the merit created by preparing, reading, thinking about and sharing this book with others, may all teachers of the Dharma live long and healthy lives, may the Dharma spread throughout the infinite reaches of space, and may all sentient beings quickly attain enlightenment. In whichever realm, country, area or place this book may be, may there be no war, drought, famine, disease, injury, disharmony or unhappiness, may there be only great prosperity, may everything needed be easily obtained, may all be guided by only perfectly qualified Dharma teachers and enjoy the happiness of Dharma, may all have only love and compassion for each other, and may we all only benefit and never harm each other.