Our Lives Have Been Most Fortunate
In this introductory talk to the Light of the Path retreat in 2009, Lama Zopa Rinpoche explains why everything — good and bad — depends on our mental attitude and why having a good heart wishing to benefit all living beings is so essential. The teaching is interwoven with stories from Rinpoche’s own early life. Edited by Venerable Sarah Thresher with Megan Evart.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche entering the 2009 Light of the Path teachings…
It seems that many old minds have come back to attend this Dharma course, and however our lives have been up to now, that is extremely worthwhile.
I would say that compared to others, our lives have been most fortunate. First of all, many of us have heard the heart of the Buddhadharma, the very essence of the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha, the very precious teaching on the stages of the path to enlightenment (lamrim) many times. We have even heard this from His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself, who is the real living Chenrezig, the Compassion Buddha manifested in the human form of a monk—the aspect that can most perfectly guide us. Just that alone is most amazing and inexpressible. It is the most unbelievable, rare, fortunate and precious thing that could have happened to us this life.
Then we have met many other great teachers and unbelievably qualified virtuous friends who preserve the whole entire Buddhadharma—the Lesser Vehicle, Mahayana Paramitayana and Mahayana Tantrayana teachings. Particularly, many of us older students have met and received teachings and initiations from Lama Yeshe, who was kinder than all the numberless past, present and future buddhas and whose holy name is extremely rare and difficult to express.
So really, if we look at what has happened to us so far in this life, it is most amazing to have met so many qualified virtuous friends who can reveal the complete path to enlightenment from their own experience. Can you imagine how most unbelievably fortunate our lives have been?
How unbelievably fortunate our lives have been…
We Can’t Really Tell When Death Will Come
But of course, this incredible opportunity will not last long. It is just like lightning on a very dark night that for a short time reveals everything clearly and is then gone.
Life is not long and we can’t really tell when death will come. There are many conditions for death, like the 400 different types of disease, 360 spirit possessions, 1080 interferers and these days there are new diseases that were never heard of before like swine flu. (There is no kangaroo flu yet — only pig flu!) Then there is cancer. We hear all the time about this and that friend or family member suddenly getting cancer. Up to now we have been hearing about our family members, friends, students and others having cancer, but how can you tell that sooner or later other people won’t hear your own name with the word “cancer” next to it and a “has” in between? This happens to many people in the world. Already many older students we have known, who had been studying Dharma for some time, have passed away in different countries. We can never tell. We might be next. That is how life is.
Then there are many other sicknesses. For example, I have diabetes and that brings many symptoms. Sometimes I have been a friend of diabetes and sometimes an enemy. We cannot always live our lives with the concept of permanence, thinking “I am going to live forever.” Well, maybe not “forever” — unless you are on drugs or hallucinating! But anyway, life is very short, and there is not much time left.
Generally, life is very short in degenerate times and even things that are supposed to support life can become the conditions for death. For example, medicines can have side effects leading to death and many people die when their houses collapse or while eating food.
Sister Vajra, Freda Bedi and My Early Life at Buxa
The very first Western nun to receive the Tibetan Buddhist lineage of ordination was called Sister Vajra. She died when her house collapsed in a landslide in Darjeeling.
I came to know Sister Vajra through an old pen friend that Freda Bedi found for me. Freda Bedi was a heart disciple of His Holiness Karmapa’s previous life. I heard she was recognized by His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa as Dorje Phagmo after she died, and a throne was made at Rumtek in Sikkim, for her next incarnation. There are high thrones for the lamas and also one for her. I am sure she must have originally been Christian and then I think she went to Sri Lanka to study Theravada Buddhism. Her son and daughter attended the same university as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s son and daughter and they became friends. She was appointed by Pandit Nehru to take care of the Tibetan monks after they escaped from Tibet. That is how she got connected to Tibetan Buddhism and she liked it.
LIFE AT BUXA DUAR
Freda Bedi came to Buxa Duar, West Bengal, where I lived for eight years. That was the place where I had a little fortune to receive some philosophical teachings and do some study and debate on the extensive scriptures. When the monks escaped from Tibet, they arrived at a place called Missamari in Assam, which was extremely hot, and were then moved to Buxa.
Not all the monks went to Buxa after escaping from Tibet; most were sent to work making roads in different parts of India, such as Dalhousie, Ladakh and West Bengal. At that time India was busy constructing roads around its border to protect the country from China. There were only around 1,500 monks who wanted to continue their studies and were able to go to Buxa. They stayed there for about ten years and studied unbelievably hard. Most of the key teachers, the abbots and ex-abbots, who are currently educating the monks at Sera, Ganden and Drepung monasteries in South India did their main study at Buxa. There were also a few monks from the Sakya, Kagyü and Nyingma traditions at Buxa who became great teachers.
Buxa had been a concentration camp during the British times. Pandit Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi-ji were imprisoned there. The very old building where Mahatma Gandhi-ji was imprisoned was surrounded by barbed wire three or four stories high. Some nuns from Tibet came and lived there, and it became a nunnery. Next to that was a long building. Some of the monks from Ganden Monastery lived in half of it and in the other half were monks from Sera Me and Sera Je. That was not the only place the monks lived, but as many of them as could fit lived there. It was a very tall building with one or two main entrances and barbed wire outside the front and back. When you entered inside, the narrow space was all lined with monks’ beds. That same building where the monks lived was also the place where Sera Je and Sera Me would gather together to do puja. The older monks would sit on the beds, the other monks sat on the floor and the abbots sat up front with the incarnate lamas next to them.
Outside there was a courtyard and again it was lined with beds. On one side of the courtyard was the building wall and on the other side was barbed wire. In that courtyard there was a high bed for Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, who taught me the very first basic subject of debate. When I first met Geshe Rabten I was wearing a very long robe. It was a tall, elderly monk’s shem-thab made of good quality wool, folded and wrapped around me, which made me look fat. I came with another person who brought a thermos of tea as an offering; I don’t think there was bread or anything else, just the tea. Geshe Rabten was sitting up on the high bed and Lama Yeshe was sitting down below with another monk. Lama had a huge pile of texts in front of him and was looking up at Geshe Rabten Rinpoche with great devotion. I had to make my way between the beds all the way from the door and when I reached there Lama Yeshe picked me up and put me on Geshe Rabten’s bed. Normally the disciple sits below the teacher but in this case Lama Yeshe put me up there out of respect because I have the name “incarnate lama.” Geshe Rabten taught me Collected Topics, which is like the A-B-C-D of debating, and after receiving that, I began my studies.
Buxa was a very mischievous place. Many people had been killed there when it was a concentration camp and at first it was full of spirits. Some of the monks even went crazy. Later it became more and more peaceful. It was also unbelievably hot, with a very unhealthy kind of heat. Unfortunately, the monks didn’t immediately try to copy the Indian lifestyle and way of eating food. If they had done so, more would have stayed healthy and survived. Of course, there were a lot of announcements and there was advice in the newspapers and from the Tibet Office in Dharamsala, but many of the monks continued to eat the same way they were used to in Tibet, where it is very cold. There was a group of Tehor Khampa monks living next to us, who were used to eating uncooked meat in Tibet. In Buxa, it was so unbelievably hot that when they ate uncooked meat they had diarrhea for three months. Many monks got sick with TB or died because of the heat and the unhealthy living conditions. In one of the rooms where I stayed I could see through the door from my bed, and every week I would watch groups of monks pass by carrying the dead body of a monk from their house (khang-tsen) on their way to the cemetery to do prayers. It was that kind of place.
In the monasteries of Tibet, the monks learned only the debate subjects and memorized root texts and commentaries. Each monastery has its own colleges—Sera Monastery has Sera Me and Sera Je, Ganden has Shartse and Jangtse and Drepung has Loseling and Gomang. Each college has its own author for the debate textbooks it uses and that is what the monks study. They also memorize thousands of pages of root texts and commentaries by the Indian pandits and great Tibetan lamas like Lama Tsongkhapa on the five great treatises: Abhisamayalamkara, Vinaya, Madhyamaka, Abhidharmakosha and Pramanavarttika. All twenty-four hours are full.
For example, Geshe Gelek is the resident teacher here at the Kadampa Center in North Carolina and his teacher, Gyüme Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Delek, is the ex-abbot of the Lower Tantric College. Rinpoche had a couple of nicknames: “Uma Jugpa,” which means Madhyamakavatara, or “Entering the Middle Way View,” and “Lo Delek,” which is just an abbreviation of his name. If I tell you his teacher’s story, you will know how intensively many of the monks studied.
In the morning, the monks would get up early and memorize texts. Then they would go to receive teachings from their teachers and afterwards go to the debate courtyard for class debate. After that, the monks would assemble and do prayers to purify, collect merits and pacify obstacles in order to complete their studies, gain realizations and achieve enlightenment. They would do Tara prayers, White Umbrella Deity, Heart Sutra and so on. There were also many prayer requests for people who had died or were sick. Then they would continue with one-on-one debate and after that come back for lunch. Then some of the monks would go for more teachings, followed by dinner, private study and many more hours of debate outside in the courtyard.
There were different places for debate. On certain days of the week the monks of all four traditions would gather together on one platform and do puja and prayers together. They would begin with a class, then prayers and afterwards one-on-one debate. The monks from Sera, Ganden and Drepung would debate together and the other traditions could join if they wanted. Sometimes the younger monks would debate until midnight. Some evenings it was like that and other evenings the different colleges would debate in their own places. Sera Me and Sera Je had a place for debate, Ganden Shartse and Ganden Jangtse had another place with different days for debate and prayer, and Drepung Gomang and Drepung Loseling had their own place. Then there was a large platform where everybody could come together for debate.
At night time, after finishing hours of debate, Geshe Gelek’s teacher would come back, drink some black tea, then put a seat outside his room and recite many of the hundreds of pages that he had memorized. His house was just next door to mine. Behind my bed there was a window and then outside and a little bit to the right of that was his window. Especially he would recite Lama Tsongkhapa’s famous text, The Interpretative and Definitive Meaning, the Essence of Good Explanation, which introduces the four different philosophical schools’ views of emptiness and particularly the Madhyamaka Prasangika School’s view. It is a very, very important text and difficult to learn, but he had memorized all those hundreds of pages and recited them by heart many times. He would recite very loudly for several hours till about 3 o’clock. Then he would go to sleep for two or three hours. Not much. In the early morning, he would get up and begin memorizing again. That is just one example of how the monks dedicated their lives to study Dharma. It is most amazing. Maybe that will give you an idea of the rest. There were many other monks who had completely memorized this text, as well as other texts, even in the building where I stayed. I started memorizing it but reached only sixteen pages and then there was an obstacle. I contracted TB and had to go to Darjeeling. I didn’t have the merit to complete it.
In Tibet, the monks didn’t have to learn how to write. Writing was regarded as a worldly activity, not Dharma. There were many things the monks didn’t have to learn. And if a monk started to learn writing, grammar or poetry in the monastery, it was considered that he was taking a worldly life. That is why, when the extremely learned abbots from Tibet came to Buxa and had to sign their names at the Indian office, many of them could not write. They were very famous abbots, very good practitioners, very learned and also great meditators, but they had not learned how to write. I heard that when some of those abbots went to sign their name at the office of the head of the Tibetan Lamas’ Camp — a Punjabi Sikh with a very glorious looking moustache and beard who had been a commander in the Second World War — they drew something like a small box or put a thumb stamp.
For many years the abbot of Sera Je at Buxa was Gen Lobsang Wangchug. He had been the abbot in Tibet and was one of the top scholars. Each college has a few very learned and top scholars and he was one of them. The most amazing thing is that in Tibet, when the monks took teachings, they could not write down anything. There was only the mind. Isn’t that incredible? They could not write, because most of the monks didn’t know how to write, and there were no machines like tape recorders to record the teachings and then listen again afterwards. Everything was up to the mind, how much the mind could grasp. Can you imagine? It was all up to how much you could pay attention and how much intelligence you had. There was no other way to learn. And you have to understand that the subject is not easy; the philosophical subjects are extremely deep and vast. There are so many different views and debates that go deeper and deeper; and they were able to manage with just the mind. These days we have more possibilities to write or record the teachings or even buy the recording from someone else later, but I’m not sure if that causes laziness. In Tibet, there was no laziness. Those great abbots were extremely learned in the philosophical subjects of Dharma, but they didn’t know how to write. It is very interesting.
Buxa was an unbelievably hot place and the conditions were really poor, but the monks there put incredible effort into their study of the Dharma. They sacrificed their lives and many became great teachers. Many of those monks have now passed away, but most of the top elder teachers in South India today are from Buxa, like Geshe Gelek’s teacher. They are able to educate many thousands of young monks, giving them a very deep, profound and clear understanding of Dharma so that Buddhism can flourish. Every year these monasteries produce qualified teachers, who have finished studying the five great scriptures and completed their examinations. These teachers can then be sent around the world to teach and help many sentient beings meet the Dharma.
In the FPMT organization alone there are now forty resident teachers, and there are many others around the world. Many of our resident teachers studied in South India, not Buxa, but they were educated by those monks who came from Buxa. There are now many young dynamic scholars and teachers like Geshe Gelek, who are spreading the light of Dharma more and more in many countries of the world and especially in the West, which has been dark from the beginning.
In the past, there was no light of Dharma in the West—no knowledge or wisdom about what is right and what is wrong, what is harmful and what is beneficial. Dharma wisdom is not a small wisdom; it encompasses the path to liberation from samsara, the whole Mahayana path and enlightenment. The wisdom that knows what is right and wrong, and what is harmful and beneficial, is completed only when you achieve the state of omniscience. The reason why we in the FPMT are able to spread the Dharma in this world is because of those monks who studied very hard at Buxa, in that unbelievably hot place, poor and in such bad living conditions. They put incredible effort into studying the Dharma day and night and now we are able to help the world because of that. We are able to enlighten the world and bring Dharma wisdom and light into people’s lives, dispelling the darkness of ignorance because of that.
FREDA BEDI, RACHEL LEVY AND SISTER VAJRA
While those other monks who became great teachers were studying so well at Buxa, I just wasted my time. It is not that somebody else caused me to waste my time; my own mind wasted my life. I spent time memorizing English words the same way Dharma is learned by memorizing texts. One time I started to memorize the dictionary, but of course it didn’t work. I would forget words and have to go back through and memorize them again. I did that a few times. Lama Yeshe actually copied out the dictionary. There was a thick book of words in Lama’s own writing but I don’t know where it is now. Lama copied from the first English-Tibetan Dictionary composed by Kazi Dawa Samdup of Sikkim, which was printed in Calcutta on very bad paper and with binding that broke when you folded it.
Memorizing those English words really didn’t help. When I tried to use them people couldn’t understand me. For example, Freda Bedi started a school for young lamas twice. The first school was in Delhi and I was there for six months until I had to go and stay in the TB hospital. I tried to learn English while I was in the hospital by going to see an old educated Indian man who I met outside one time while walking. I went to his house a few times taking along a book of Hindi and English given to me by His Holiness Ling Rinpoche’s past life’s secretary Thubten Tsering. The second school Freda Bedi started was in Dalhousie. She invited me to attend and I went. When I met her, I was talking about His Holiness Song Rinpoche and I said that His Holiness was “doing puja” but I think I used the word “rites,” which I had memorized. She couldn’t understand me at all and thought I was saying that His Holiness Song Rinpoche was “writing.” Eventually she had to ask a translator to come over and help. So the English I learned at Buxa didn’t really help. The language I have been speaking all these years is what I have picked up from the students since the time we met Zina Rachevsky, who became our first student and nun.
Anyway, as I mentioned, Freda Bedi found me a pen friend in London, an old lady called Rachel Levy, who was one of the older members of the Buddhist Society. She was a very good lady, very kind. She took care of me for seven years. After I got TB, she sent the school all the money I needed for medicine, milk and other expenses. At the time, I had no idea who sent the money; it was only much later that I found out it was her. She also gave money to Sister Vajra to make a set of robes for me when I was at Buxa and things like that. That is how I came to find out about Sister Vajra. Most of the letters I had at Buxa were from Rachel Levy. Other people could not read her letters easily because she had an old lady’s handwriting. One time she asked me, “Do you want to come to England?” I think she just wanted to check my reaction, to experiment on me. Of course, I answered “Yes.” She replied, “When you become like Lama Trungpa, then you can come to England.” She was very wise. I think she knew Trungpa Rinpoche because he was famous amongst the Buddhists in London at that time, and especially Tibetan Buddhists. By the time I did eventually come to England, Rachel had passed away, but I met her cousin and her cousin’s husband a few times over the years.
Sister Vajra was ordained by Domo Geshe Rinpoche, not Lama Govinda’s guru—the great yogi who lived in Tibet and whose story is told in The Way of the White Clouds—but the next incarnation. The young Domo Geshe Rinpoche had completed his study for the lharampa geshe in Tibet and was just about to come back to Domo or Yatung in Tibet, which is near Sikkim, when mainland China invaded and Rinpoche was put in prison. The monasteries and all the benefactors from different places were waiting for Rinpoche to return, totally excited and preparing an unbelievable welcome, but it never happened. Eventually Rinpoche was released and he very wisely brought five or six trucks of texts with him to India. In Buxa, there were many difficulties because there were so few texts. The monks had to write out their own texts from the one or two copies available. When Domo Geshe Rinpoche came to Kalimpong bringing various philosophical texts from Tibet it helped the monks a lot.
Originally I was talking about what happened to Sister Vajra but then my story went for a long walk and became a bit of a movie show! Sister Vajra had a nice little cottage in Darjeeling, which I visited. Normally there is a lot of rain in Darjeeling and it is quite foggy. One day a landslide was coming and people shouted to her from outside to get out of the house but she was having some difficulty leaving and I think she was busy packing up her money. Then, just as she was about to come out, the whole house collapsed on her, and she died holding an umbrella in one hand and a briefcase with money in the other. That shows how even shelter — which is supposed to protect life — can become a condition for death.
The Real Meditation Is Lamrim
Life is very short and there is not much time left. We can’t really tell when death will come because there are so many more conditions for death now than there were maybe a few hundred years ago.
Therefore, it is extremely worthwhile to attend this lamrim course, especially if, like me, your mind is usually preoccupied with so many other things that there is no time to meditate on lamrim, which is the real meditation. Maybe you are doing tantric meditation because it interests you more, or not doing any kind of meditation, but the real meditation is lamrim, the stages of the path to enlightenment.
The great enlightened being Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo mentioned in his teachings that it is more meaningful to spend our lives meditating on the lamrim, the three principal aspects of the path, than to recite many hundreds of millions of OM MANI PADME HUM or other mantras.
He also said that it is more meaningful to spend our lives meditating on lamrim than even seeing the Buddha. Of course, you can understand that you don’t get enlightened just by seeing the Buddha and not meditating on the lamrim. It is not like that. You need to have realizations. The delusions don’t all go away just like that. First you must have the realization of guru devotion, the root of the path to enlightenment, which makes possible all the rest of the realizations up to enlightenment. Then you need renunciation to eliminate attachment; right view, or the wisdom realizing emptiness, to eliminate ignorance; and bodhicitta to eliminate the self-cherishing thought. On the basis of that, you have to actualize the generation and completion stages of tantra which purify ordinary death, intermediate state and rebirth into the path-time three kayas—the path-time dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya. You have to make preparation for those realizations by planting the seed of the three kayas. You need to develop the realizations of the generation stage and then the completion stage. You must achieve all of this in order to be enlightened and it doesn’t happen all at once just by seeing the Buddha. Of course, you do receive Buddha’s blessing but not all those realizations. That is why Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo Rinpoche says it is more meaningful to meditate on lamrim than to even see the Buddha himself.
I think that amongst our students there are some who have seen Buddha. Many ordinary people who have great devotion or whose minds are purified see Buddha, but it doesn’t mean that they realize bodhicitta or emptiness just by that. You can’t even get sutra realizations by seeing Buddha, let alone tantric ones.
Therefore, it is extremely worthwhile to come together and meditate even for two weeks. At home there are many distractions but here we follow the discipline and meditate in a group so that something gets done and preparation is made in the mind to achieve these realizations quicker. Then, sooner or later they will come; if not this life, then for sure in the next. That means it will be quicker to achieve enlightenment. And you can never be sure this is not your last opportunity. OK? You cannot tell.
The real meditation…
Everything Depends on Your Attitude
I thought to start by explaining how to practice normally in daily life and to begin by giving a general understanding of how to start the day.
First, I want to mention something Lama Tsongkhapa explained in his Mind Training Poem. I received the oral transmission of this poem from Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala along with Lama Yeshe. That time, His Holiness Ling Rinpoche from his own side also gave us the oral transmission of The Special Qualities of Lama Tsongkhapa’s Teachings composed by the great Amdo lama Je Gungtangpa and may have given me the text. Lama Tsongkhapa mentioned,
If you don’t purify negative karma and defilements quicker and quicker,
Being totally under the control of very forceful karma,
Even though you know this is happiness, that is happiness, you are powerless to choose;
Even though you know this is suffering, that is suffering, you are powerless to free yourself…
Lama Tsongkhapa is saying that each one of us is totally under the control of very hard, forceful, powerful karma and if we don’t purify all of this as quickly as possible, even though we know what is happiness and what is suffering, we are not free to choose. Somehow we just have to go through sicknesses, relationship problems, business problems and whatever other experiences, powerless to immediately free ourselves from them.
Therefore, reflect that action and result are non-betraying.
Look now to choose between white and black karma:
From this day take care not to create negative karma.
From this night attend to virtue.
Once an action is done, karma is created. If the action is non-virtuous, the result will definitely be suffering. If the action is virtuous, the result will definitely be happiness. These results will definitely come. Therefore we need to reflect on this and then abandon negative karma and practice white karma, or virtuous action.
Lama Tsongkhapa warns us that we need to take care not to create negative karma, like being careful of the food we eat, protecting ourselves from a poisonous snake or taking care when travelling on a very dangerous road or around anything that is harmful and could cause sickness or death. More specifically, he is saying: What better can we do with this life than abandon creating negative karma and instead create virtue all the time?
And he advises us that
White and black actions depend on good and bad thoughts:
If you have good thoughts, even the paths and grounds are good;
If you have bad thoughts, even the paths and grounds are bad.
Everything depends on your attitude.
What Lama Tsongkhapa is saying here is that everything depends on the mind, everything depends on our attitude. That is something great to learn—how everything depends on the mind.
HOW SELF-CHERISHING HARMS US
For example, if you have a bodhicitta motivation, the good heart benefiting other sentient beings, you can actualize the realizations of the Mahayana path, the five paths and ten grounds.
If you don’t have a good heart, then even if you have renunciation and a realization of emptiness, you can only enter the lower path, the Lesser Vehicle path, and the highest you can achieve is the lower nirvana. That is it. You cannot become a bodhisattva and collect skies of merit in every second with every single action of body, speech and mind, as well as purifying all the heavy negative karmas collected in this and past lives. Without bodhicitta, the good heart benefiting others, you cannot achieve enlightenment and do perfect work without the slightest mistake for sentient beings, liberating every one of them from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bringing them to enlightenment.
Also, the self-cherishing thought makes your attitude bad. It interferes with your achieving the realizations of lower nirvana, the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment and the five paths to liberation. Use yourself as an example: so far, because of following the self-cherishing thought from beginningless rebirths up to now, instead of practicing bodhicitta and benefiting others, you have not been able to achieve the path to liberation or any other realizations. You have not even achieved the very first realization of impermanence and death, which makes the mind become Dharma.
Self-cherishing interferes with your achieving enlightenment and liberating numberless sentient beings in each realm from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bringing them to enlightenment. Not only that; it also interferes with your achieving liberation from samsara, a good rebirth and happiness in all your future lives. The self-cherishing thought even creates many obstacles to your achieving the happiness of this life.
Today’s self-cherishing thought doesn’t allow your actions right now to become a cause of enlightenment, liberation from samsara or the happiness of future lives. It creates so many obstacles even for the happiness of this life, whether it is travelling, business or whatever. It makes things so difficult. From self-cherishing come attachment to this life, anger and all the other delusions. That is how self-cherishing becomes such a great obstacle for the success of this life. All the obstacles come from the self-cherishing thought.
Creating a Bodhicitta Motivation
Since everything depends on our attitude, the idea here is to start each day with a bodhicitta motivation, not only during this retreat but also generally in our practice in daily life.
Two bodhicitta motivations are explained here to be used first thing in the morning on waking. The first one, Cutting the Concept of Permanence, is from sutra and is longer. The second, Give Up Stretching the Legs, is shorter and based on a verse from tantra that His Holiness Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche would often teach. You can choose either one. After that, recite the Bodhisattva Attitude verses to remind yourself of how you are going to dedicate your life to others. They are taken from the great bodhisattva Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. There are elaborate and shorter versions of these verses, so again you have some choice depending on time.
Recently I added two extra verses before the verses by Shantideva. The first is from Kadampa Geshe Langri Tangpa’s Eight Verses of Thought Transformation (v.1) and explains how to think about sentient beings.
Determined to obtain the greatest possible benefit
From all sentient beings,
Who are more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel,
I shall hold them most dear at all times.
The second is from Aryasura’s Aspiration in Seventy Stanzas (v.20) and expresses how you are going to serve them.
May I become like a wish-granting jewel
Completely fulfilling all the wishes,
And like a wish-granting tree
Completely fulfilling the hopes of all transmigratory beings.
There is also the complete morning practice I put together, The Method to Transform a Suffering Life into Happiness, to be used every day when you first wake up and open your eyes each morning. It includes A Direct Meditation on All the Important Points of the Graduated Path composed by Dorje Chang Losang Jinpa along with these other verses and some mantras taught by the Buddha out of compassion to increase our virtue and help make our lives as meaningful as possible by directing them to enlightenment.
Use any one of these motivations; the main aim is to transform your mind into the motivation of bodhicitta.
Click below to listen to a guided reflection on “Everything Depends on Your Attitude.” For a written copy of the reflection, please see Chapter 7 in your copy of the Bodhisattva Attitude or you can read it online here.
Watch the Entire Teaching
2009 Light of the Path: September 9th (Introductory Talk)
Learn More about These Teachings
“In the West, millions of people suffer from depression, but if you dedicate your life in the morning to numberless sentient beings, you will have unbelievable joy and happiness the whole day.”
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Why is a bodhicitta motivation so important? What is the bodhisattva’s attitude? How can we keep our minds focused on bodhicitta throughout the day? Find out more about these subjects, learn the context of these teachings and read a summary presentation of each of the Bodhisattva Attitude sections here.
Additional Resources for Study
READ MORE IN BODHISATTVA ATTITUDE
LYWA’s Bodhisattva Attitude: How to Dedicate Your Life to Others was edited by Venerable Sarah Thresher and presents Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s practice advice on how to create a bodhicitta motivation first thing in the morning and then maintain it by cultivating a bodhisattva’s attitude throughout the day. Find the original extensive version of Bodhisattva Attitude online here or an abbreviated booklet version here.
THE LAWUDO LAMA
You can learn more about Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s life story in The Lawudo Lama available here.
EXPLORE FPMT LIVING IN THE PATH STUDY MODULES
Explore FPMT study modules based on more Light of the Path teachings here.
About the Heart Advice Series
The goal of the LYWA Heart Advice Series is to preserve and make available Rinpoche’s unique style and lineage of teachings and practices. Heart Advice is a series of core teachings — the “heart advice” — taken from the experiential instructions of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. You can read more about the goals of the Heart Advice Series here.
The main resources for the Heart Advice titles are Rinpoche’s major retreats, commentaries and transmissions given since 2008, although other Archive materials supplement these. Bodhisattva Attitude: How to Dedicate Your Life to Others is the first title in this series.
The Heart Advice Series is dedicated to the long life and perfect health of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, to his continuous teaching activity and to the fulfillment of all his holy wishes.
LYWA is pleased to bring you this multimedia title based upon Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Bodhisattva Attitude, edited by Ven Sarah Thresher and Megan Evart with technical assistance by Roy Harvey. We are also very grateful to our friends at FPMT for generously sharing their Light of the Path resources. It is our hope that this multimedia presentation will help to immerse you in these precious teachings of Rinpoche and will enhance your meditation and practice. By weaving FPMT and Archive resources together in this way we offer you the means to deepen your experience of the teachings – almost as if you had attended the teachings in person.
Everything Depends on Your Attitude is the first in this series which includes Cutting the Concept of Permanence, Give up Stretching the Legs, Four Wrong Concepts, Bodhisattva Attitude, Bodhicitta Mindfulness and Transforming a Suffering Life into Happiness and adds to our growing collection of multimedia titles including Lama Yeshe’s Freedom – Courage – Realization and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s The Merely Imputed I. Explore the free collection of all LYWA multimedia titles here.
We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions!
Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive
These multimedia titles are made possible by the kind supporters of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive who, like you, appreciate how LYWA makes the teachings of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche freely available in myriad formats, including on the Archive website for researching, listening, reading, downloading and ordering, shared daily with our social media communities and distributed worldwide as audio books, ebooks and free books. Please join us in sharing the Dharma with everyone everywhere for the happiness and benefit of all beings. Learn how by visiting us at LamaYeshe.com. Thank you so much and please enjoy this multimedia title.