The Good Heart: A Talk by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Sakya Monastery, Seattle, WA, September 3, 1997
I want to say hello to everyone and thank you very much. I’m very happy to meet with those who I have met before in this life and those I haven’t met. Before the talk, before my blessing to the ears (along with my coughs) I want to do the preliminaries – to give torma to the interferers to receive the permission to practice the blessing of Vajrasattva’s holy body, holy speech, holy mind. As they say in the practice of Vajrasattva, preparations before doing the sadhana include generating oneself as the deity, blessing the torma, generating the torma into the deity, then a few other things to do with Vajrasattva, then cleaning the mouth, then prostrations, then distributing flowers and the mandala offering. So, before the talk I will give torma to the interferers.
I am happy to do the blessing of Vajrasattva. I have heard that students of Ven. Thubten Chodron have been studying the Lam Rim sincerely. That inspired me to come here to give the Vajrasattva initiation. The Vajrasattva practice is an extremely essential practice for the daily life, not just for retreat but in the daily life. It is one solution that helps us die without guilt and with a happy mind. The practice of Vajrasattva is one of the solutions. Of course, the main solution is developing a good heart. This allows us to die with a happy mind without causing much worry and fear and upset for family members and friends. With a good heart, one can die and leave happily.
A good heart makes practicing Vajrasattva and other deity practices and so forth pure and powerful, effective and most beneficial for oneself and for all other sentient beings. The Vajrasattva practice also helps to purify negative karmas and defilements so that there are less obstacles to practicing dharma, to practicing good heart and actualizing Bodhicitta. As it purifies obstacles and negative karmas, it is easier to have realizations on the path to enlightenment. It makes practice smoother.
I would also like to mention that His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche was a very close friend of my spiritual master, Lama Yeshe. They met on the road as they were escaping from Tibet. They fled together. They knew each other very well. Lama Yeshe used to mention this story from time to time. Fortunately, I met Rinpoche a few times, once when he came to Vajrapani.
Dudjom Rinpoche’s realizations, the real inner peace and happiness that he’s achieved, is experienced due to his high attainment. Rinpoche’s expression of his inner peace and happiness always makes me laugh. Makes the life filled with laughter. So, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet such a highly attained yogi. Due to Rinpoche’s kindness, we have this opportunity to meet this time and to do Vajrasattva initiation at Sakya monastery and say some mumblings. (laughter)
For the beginning talk, I would like to go over the outline of the thought transformation subject, integrating all the practices into 5 powers. From the lojong thought transformation, it is one of the very important integrated practices.
The very first point is that all the emotional problems and obstacles to practicing the Dharma and meditation, obstacles to peace and happiness in the day to day life, obstacles to satisfaction and fulfillment in the heart, including loneliness, depression, all the unhappiness, all these are caused by the sicknesses of the mind, that which is the ego, the substantive mind, the self-cherishing thought. Depression that one can not explain, can not find reasons for, or when suddenly your mind is very unhappy and you can’t tell why. You wake up one morning and suddenly your mind is very unhappy and you can’t tell the reason why the mind is like that, can’t explain the situation. This is all caused by the self-cherishing mind.
In says in the teaching of the Wheel of Sharp Weapons that Lama Atisha received from Lama Dharmalakita that experiences like depression are not uncausitive phenomenon. They are causitive phenomenon. They have causes. Even though one can not tell based on his/her experiences what has caused a disturbance doesn’t mean it has no causes. There are reasons for why these experiences happen. The cause for the depression, the reason for the depression, what makes it exist now, happened either previously in this life or in past lives. The cause happened before the result.
In the teachings of the Wheel of Sharp Weapons, the thought transformation text, it is mentioned that depression happens due to generating some karma in the past, some mistakes in the past with vows, with teachers or holy objects. It’s all related to ego, the self cherishing thought and originated by that. Cherishing the “I” is the source. It opens the door for problems, suffering, obstacles.
Cherishing others opens the door for happiness, for success, for day to day peace of mind and happiness all the way up to full highest enlightenment, the purest everlasting happiness. It opens the door for all this happiness for oneself and for all the sentient beings. By cherishing others with a good heart, one can cause happiness of this life, happiness of future lives, happiness of liberation from samsara, and the happiness of the highest enlightenment for ourselves and for others.
Cherishing the “I” creates only obstacles for ones’ wishes for happiness. Whenever our mind becomes self centered, egoistic, we establish the roots of all our problems. Every time in our every day life when we allow our mind to become egoistic, we are establishing the root of problems. Every time we allow our mind to develop the good heart, we are establishing the root for all happiness and peace. For example, while one is eating, while one is doing the job in the office or working at home taking care of the family, doing obligations, or while one is on the road or shopping, if the attitude of the activities is ego, there is tension.
If there is very strong tension in the heart, there are no realizations, no rest for your mind. There is strong tension, uptightness and a closed mind toward others. The nature of that mind has no peace. Your inner life has no peace. There may be some excitement outside but the inner life has no peace. There’s no real happiness inside. The inside is empty, empty and filled with unhappiness. That’s the result, the effect you get from the ego. It fills up your heart and the inner life with unhappiness and dissatisfaction. When the concern is with “I”, constantly thinking, “my happiness, my happiness, my happiness” like reciting a mantra, then there is no thought of happiness for others, for benefiting others or creating happiness for others – no thought of that.
Thinking like this, no matter how much wealth one has, or how many friends you’re surrounded by or how many servants one has, one can’t really enjoy the life. No matter how much wealth, how much reputation one has, one cannot really enjoy the life. There’s always pain in your heart, dissatisfaction, the pain of ego in the heart. There’s no fulfillment in the heart. Because of that, one encounters so many problems, one after the other or at the same time.
Externally, there’s so much tension. There’s the expression of tension, the expression of the substantive mind on the face. Very tense. It is difficult to even smile at others. Due to the attitude and the problems, one sees the life as very dark like in a fog. Feeling of hopelessness come in. One sees only problems, only the negative side with the ego. One doesn’t see any positive side.
So, life passes like that. With the one time precious human body we have achieved, we pass the life like that. While the life is passing in that nature, suddenly death happens. Like Princess Diana. Of course, she is very famous but everyone is very shocked and upset by her death. Suddenly, even while one has everything – friends, wealth, reputation – (snap) suddenly, the life is gone. Death happens just like that. I heard that she did many good things in her life – so many charities, creating happiness for others. I’m just using her as an example to show that things can change all of a sudden. It’s the nature of suffering that things can change any minute.
Lama Tsongkapa mentions in the Lam Rim teachings about the six promised shortfalls of samsara. The most painful shortfall of samsara is that we can’t trust anything. No matter how much one has or gets or enjoys, one never gets satisfaction or peace of mind because nothing is definite. Everything changes. Another shortfall is that no matter how much one has of samsaric enjoyments, one cannot get (lasting) satisfaction.
From daily life and from reading newspapers, one can understand clearly what the Buddha explains about samsara in the teachings of Lama Tsongkapa. People recognized as examples of success, those who have external things like money, reputation, support – as one achieves those things, should have greater and greater peace and happiness as they achieve greater success. But this does not happen. It’s extremely rare. At the same time of the material success, the inner prosperity, the inner life should have more peace and happiness, and more realizations, too, but this is very rare. For that, you need to practice dharma, practice meditation.
The cost of inner peace and happiness is letting go of the painful mind, the desires. This involves dharma and meditation practice. The best example of this is His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And, Dudjom Rinpoche, also. With great saints and holy beings of the different traditions, a good reputation and these things happen at the same time with incredible inner peace and happiness. They have no fear of delusion. Bodhisattvas may be kings and millionaires but inside, there is a good heart, all these realizations and incredible peace and happiness, fulfillment. There are also some examples of extremely successful business persons who have found satisfaction in the mind and fewer emotional thoughts but this is very rare.
There is so much grasping to this life and the 8 worldly dharmas. There is so much clinging to this life without much peace and happiness in the mind. With ego, life is like that. Days go by, weeks go by, months go by, years go by. Then, suddenly one day, death happens and that’s it. Lost opportunity. The life was completely distracted by ego, cheated by ego. We lost the opportunity to change the mind, to have a new mind, a happy mind, the most profound mind which cherishes others. And, the cause, the road which leads to achieving happiness is gone.
Whether one is at the job, at the office, with the family or working, suddenly you can change your attitude. Think, “The purpose of my life is not just to obtain happiness for myself, not just to solve my own problems. The purpose of my life is to cause happiness for others. I’m here to serve others, to be useful to others, to be beneficial to others.” So, whether one is working on the road, or shopping or in a restaurant, think, ” I am here for others.” Simply change the attitude into being here for others, to cause happiness for others.
With ego, there is a gate, a barrier between you and the people around you, your family, those in the office, on the road, in the shops, in the restaurant. There’s a gate. But, by developing this new attitude, by recognizing the purpose of living – to cause happiness for others, you will feel close to everyone you meet: people in the restaurant, in the shops, in the street, in the car. When you change your mind into benefiting others, being here for others, thinking “I am here to serve others,” suddenly, there is joy in the life. Suddenly, there is joy in your heart. You find enjoyment. There is rest, relaxation for your mind.
With this thought, the tension vanishes. You have a new mind, a new life. With this good heart, your life is filled with light, no more darkness, filled with light. Enjoyment. It’s easy to smile. Other people see this, and feel your warm heart from the smile on your face, feel your compassion and love and feel close to you. Because of that, other people wish to help you. You may not need help but they see you are a kind person and they want to help. It is a normal experience. The effect of the mind with this new thought, the wish to benefit others, is peace and happiness.
The previous minute, the previous hour was a life full of suffering, problems, and doubt. But, with this new mind of cherishing others, the thought of benefiting others, the next minute, the next hour is like the sun rising in your life, dispersing darkness. The good heart gives so much light, so much freedom, so much happiness and joy. It makes the life rich with merit and good karma. With a good heart, you’ll create good karma naturally day and night. While eating, you’ll create good karma because you’ll be eating for the benefit of others. While doing your job for 8 hours a day with a good heart, you’ll naturally create good karma because you’re not just doing the job for yourself but for the benefit of others, for the happiness of other sentient beings. Even eight hours of sleep with a good heart is creating good karma when done for the benefit of others.
So, the first thing to know is the purpose of the life – to cause happiness and to be useful, beneficial for all sentient beings. That involves benefiting and not harming other sentient beings. It’s very important to know that each of us has a universal responsibility. How? If one has compassion towards others, then the rest of the sentient beings do not receive harm from us. The absence of harm is peace and happiness. The peace and happiness they receive from you is in your hands. It is up to your mind. It depends on what you do with your mind, whether you generate compassion towards others or not.
Without compassion, the ego is there, the substantive mind is there. Same with anger, attachment and the other emotional thoughts. Then, we bring harm to other sentient beings. Besides harming ourselves, these thoughts harm others either directly or indirectly, from life to life. So, one can give harm to all the sentient beings with these thoughts, with this ego, this substantive mind. From life to life, the egoistic mind harms numberless sentient beings.
It can be extremely dangerous if one person harms numberless sentient beings. Even if all of the numberless sentient beings harm you, even if they kill you, you are just one person, just one sentient being. If one doesn’t change one’s attitude and practice meditation or practice dharma, if one doesn’t change ones’ own emotional, egoistic substantive mind into the good heart which cherishes others, then there is great risk, great danger that one can harm numberless sentient beings.
For example, throughout history, because one person did not practice, because one person did not have any education about developing good qualities of the mind like patience and compassion, one person has had so much influence and killed, tortured so many millions of people. This has happened in the west, in Tibet, and in China. You can see very clearly how one person with influence, with power but without education and practice of good qualities of the mind such as compassion, can harm so many. If this one person had had the education, the practice, this one person could have brought so much peace and happiness to many millions of people, unbelievable happiness, instead of torture and destruction to people, the environment and to numberless animals.
It is extremely crucial to be educated in the good heart, to practice the good heart. From practicing the good heart, numberless others can have peace and happiness from you and they don’t receive harm from you. It is incredible peace and happiness they receive. Whether others practice compassion and good heart towards you or not doesn’t matter. You become the example for others. You inspire others to practice compassion by changing your own attitude from ego to cherishing others. Like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, saints and highly realized beings, like St. Francis of Assisi. They inspired so many others to have peace and happiness, to have a good heart. Due to each of them, so many others practice and inspire others. They stop giving harm to the rest of the living beings and on top of that, they help them.
There are many levels of benefiting others. Causing happiness for others in this life is one purpose of our lives. Causing happiness in all the future lives of others is even more important. Causing happiness for others for all the future years is much more important than just giving comfort for today. Since one has the opportunity to give comfort today, one should do that. But, if one can offer happiness and its causes for all the future lives, it is even more important. (Tape 2) Then, leading them to purify and collect merit, leading them to create the cause of happiness by educating them for this and all the coming future lives.
And, more important than that is leading them to finish completely all the suffering, all the problems including the suffering of death, rebirth, sickness and old age. That depends on ceasing delusions, karma, causes of samsara, causes of suffering, the disturbing thoughts and actions motivated by that which is called karma. To cease these things which is produced by their own mind and causes suffering, creating death and rebirth is the ultimate benefit.
The real cause of suffering includes ignorance, the mind that is not aware of the self or how the “I” actually exists, not knowing the ultimate nature of the “I”. Death comes from the ignorance of not knowing the “I”. There is no such “I” in this body, and there is no “I” on these collection of 5 aggregates. If you look for the “I” you cannot find it which means it does not exist. It is non-existent in this body and on these aggregates. This is the reality. This is what you discover when you scientifically analyze by using logical reasoning. If “I” exists, then you should be able to discover it. You should be able to find it but you cannot, which shows the reality. While there’s no “I” in this body, no “I” on these aggregates, and no emotional or real “I” appearing there, the “I” which experiences happiness, suffering and creates the causes of happiness and suffering is merely labeled by the mind. This is the reality.
We sentient beings haven’t realized this reality due to our own negative imprints left on the mental continuum in the past by the ignorant, unknowing mind which thinks of an inherently existing “I”. It’s like whatever you print on a negative roll of movie film that you set up in the machine and project on a movie or TV screen. Like that, these negative imprints left on our mental continuum by past ignorance, the concept of an inherently existing “I”, the “I” which is imputed by the thought, projects the hallucination of an inherently existent “I” on the merely labeled “I” like a decoration. It’s like putting carpet on a floor or a table cloth over a table. You don’t see the beauty or the design of the table. It is obscured.
Like that, the negative imprints left on the mental continuum by the past ignorance projects the hallucination of an inherently existing “I” on the merely labeled “I”. That’s how even though it is reality, we discover through analysis that the “I” is merely labeled by the mind. Through analysis, this is what you discover. You see that this is the true condition of reality.
Even though this is the reality, it doesn’t appear to us in that way. It appears back to us as totally something else, totally opposite and not according to the reality of the merely labeled “I”. That “I” which exists as an inherently existing “I”, an “I” existing from its own side is the false, total hallucination. It’s a totally false “I”.
So, to have an idea of what is false and what is reality of the “I”, what is the truth of the “I”, to realize this is extremely essential. All of the confusion in our lives, all of the problems are based on not having discovered this in our life, the inability to differentiate the false from the true “I”. All the emotional thoughts are based on not having discovered what is false and what is true, especially with the “I”. And,, without realizing what is true and what is false, there is no way to escape from death, no way to get liberated forever from the cycle of death and rebirth, to completely cease all the suffering and problems we experience.
If one has the realization of Bodhicitta, one becomes the best sublime object of the sentient beings offerings. If one has the realizations of Bodhicitta, the ultimate good heart, then when others do service for you, it becomes unbelievable purification for their mind. It purifies negative karma, obstacles and collects unbelievable merit and good karma. So, by having the realization of Bodhicitta, when others help you in the daily life, it creates unbelievable merit for them. It is said in the teachings that even the footprints of bodhisattvas, holy beings, those who have completely renounced cherishing oneself, whose only thought is to help others, cherishes others, even the footprint left in the dust on the road is touched out of respect by the king of the devas, bowing down with their jewel crowns. Even the footprint becomes an object of prostration and respect by worldly gods, kings and devas.
There are verses in the Bodhisattvacharyavatara about how Bodhicitta is the most powerful means to purify the mind of negative karma. So, if one wishes to purify, then the most powerful practice is Bodhicitta, the good heart.
I’ll tell you one story to give you an idea of how powerful Bodhicitta is in the mind. Asanga, the great pundit, did retreat for 12 years wishing to see Maitraya Buddha. After 3 years he had no sign of seeing Maitraya and felt that nothing had happened so he left his hermitage. On the road he saw somebody cutting rock with a thread and the rock was worn out even though it was just a thread. He thought, “If even a thread can cut rock, why can’t I achieve seeing Maitraya Buddha?” So, he went back to the hermitage to meditate.
Then, after several more years of retreat, again he felt nothing had happened. He hadn’t seen Maitraya Buddha so he left retreat again. This time on the road, he saw a place where a bird wing had touched the rock flying in and out of the nest. He saw that the rock had been worn away even though the bird wing was very soft and the rock very hard. So, he thought, “If even a soft bird feather can wear away the hard rock, then it must be possible for me to achieve Maitraya Buddha.”
He went back to his cave and a third time and after 3 years, he felt that nothing had happened. The third one, I don’t remember Maybe you can find out later. So, the conclusion is that after 12 years of retreat, he had not seen Maitraya Buddha and he left his retreat. Out on the road, he saw a wounded dog filled with maggots. He felt such unbearable compassion, so much compassion that he sacrificed his life to the dog. He cut some of his own flesh from his thigh so that the worms would have something else to eat, something to live on. The worms were very fragile and he didn’t want to crush them with his fingers so he went to pick them off of the dog with the tip of his tongue. He closed his eyes but couldn’t find the worms with his tongue. When he opened his eyes, there was no wounded dog. There was Maitraya Buddha. At first, he couldn’t see the aspect of Maitraya. He had seen Maitraya as a wounded dog. But, his view of the suffering dog changed because of his unbearable compassion and cherishing for the dog.
That service, that unbearable compassion purified all the defilements and negative karmas which blocked and obscured Asanga’s mind from seeing an aspect of Maitraya Buddha. The obscured, impure mind made him see Maitraya in the form of a wounded dog. The unbearable compassion completely purified all his karma in that short time. The defilements, the negative karmas were purified. His mind became pure.
Like a child complaining because he hadn’t seen his mother for a long time, Asanga said to Maitraya, “Why didn’t I see you earlier?” Maitraya said, “I was always with you, always there but due to your clouded mind, you couldn’t see me.” To prove it, Maitraya showed Asanga the marks where he spit on Maitreya’s robes. With that, he showed Asanga that he was there all the time.
Then Maitraya asked Asanga what he wanted, what he wished for and Asanga asked for teachings. So, Maitraya took Asanga to the Tushita Pure Land where one morning of teachings lasted about 50 human years. He gave all these teachings like the five divisions of Maitreya’s teachings, including the ___________ which explains the whole Path to Enlightenment.
Asanga wrote down everything Maitraya taught him and from that he wrote his five commentaries which is called the 5 Divisions and Grounds. (?) What is called Lam Rim started from Lama Atisha’s Lamp in the Path of Enlightenment, even though the path contained there was taught by the Buddha and existed before. The Lam Rim extracted the essence from all these teachings of Maitraya Buddha. From these Maitraya Buddha teachings alone, so many beings became enlightened by practicing their teachings.
What Maitraya Buddha and Asanga wrote down has spread out to many. This is what has been studied and practiced for many, many years in monasteries like Sera Je. And now, even in the West, so many people are able to make their life meaningful, able to find answers in the life, to achieve the three great meanings in the life. All this is due to these teachings by Maitraya Buddha’s text given to Asanga. Due to Asanga’s compassion which he generated toward the living being, the wounded dog, gave us the opportunity to practice Maitraya’s teachings in this very life. Not only Asanga himself got benefit but so many other countless sentient beings received benefit from his action, received realizations and enlightenment, making the life meaningful.
So like this, Bodhicitta and compassion are very powerful in such a short time. Asanga retreated for 12 years but only when generating unbearable compassion toward the dog was he able to see Maitraya Buddha. When you compare how much time he spent in retreat and didn’t purify all those negative karma but by generating unbearable compassion, cherishing a sentient being, then it happened. We become so much closer to enlightenment by generating unbearable compassion, by cherishing others.
Also, one of the lineage lamas who achieved the deity Vajrayogini was named Simbowa(?). His guru is the great yogi called Lama Chipowa (Heruka). They were going to a place called Oti (?) to practice tantra. His guru came first to a river where he saw a woman filled with leprosy, completely covered with pus and blood and with great suffering. This lady asked the great yogi, Lama Chipowa, “Please take me to the other side” but the yogi didn’t take her. Later the disciple of Lama Chipowa saw this same woman and she asked him to take her across the river. He felt unbearable compassion and without any hesitation, without fear of her disease, without fear of her being a woman, he took her across the river on his back.
In the middle of the river, the woman with leprosy transformed into Dorje Palmo. Then, Dorje Palmo took the disciple to the Pure Land with his same body and he became enlightened. In this Pure Land, if you are able to go there, it is 100% sure that you will become enlightened there. Other Pure Lands are not like that. You have to pray in those Pure Land to be able to practice tantra there to be able to achieve enlightenment.
His yogi came by and didn’t help her but Simbowa (?) generated unbearable compassion and carried her on his back. That woman was Dorje Palmo but he didn’t see her that way because of his defilements. Even though it was a deity, an enlightened being, she appeared as an ordinary human being, a very poor suffering leper woman. In a very short time, with unbearable compassion and by offering service and cherishing others, so much is purified and one goes to the Pure Land. How powerful is the Bodhicitta, compassion. There are many stories like that.
You can tell even from your own experiences when you are practicing more compassion, cherishing others more, giving up yourself more for others. You’ll have better dreams, better signs, and more signs at night in the dreams. You’ll be able to see deities and to hear instruction from the deities, or you are praised by deities. Even in the dreams, one receives signs that your deity is pleased, signs that you have purified your mind. And, you receive certain experiences during meditations, too.
With a good heart, Bodhicitta, one is able to collect extensive merit immediately. Skies of merit in just one minute. With just the motivation of Bodhicitta, even without the realization, each time one generates the thought of benefiting all sentient beings, one collects merit like a limitless sky. With the thought of Bodhicitta even without realizations, every single action of eating and drinking can be the cause of enlightenment, collecting merit like the limitless sky. Each step wherever one is going becomes the cause of enlightenment, collecting merit like the limitless sky if it’s dedicated for all sentient beings. Whatever one does with the thought of benefiting others, the cause of happiness for all the sentient beings, one collects merit like the limitless sky. Everything becomes the cause of enlightenment, the cause of happiness for all sentient beings.
Lama Tsong Khapa’s disciple, Kedrup Rinpoche, praised Lama Tsong Khapa that each of his breaths going in and out became the cause for happiness of all sentient beings. That is because of Tsong Khapa’s Bodhicitta realization. If you have Bodhicitta realization, the ultimate good heart, then each breath can become the cause of happiness for all sentient beings, benefits all sentient beings. With Bodhicitta, every single thing you do is for others. Nothing is for oneself. Everything is totally for the benefit of all sentient beings.
The great enlightened being Pabonka Rinpoche had one disciple, ________(?) Rinpoche. He came to discuss emptiness with a very high lama and the lama said, “If you want to realize emptiness then you should go and see Pabonka in Lhasa.” So he went to see Pabonka to receive teachings on emptiness. He became Pabonka’s disciple and probably meditated on the 9 levels of Samatha (calm abiding) in Pabonka’s cave near Sera Je monastery.
Only after achieving all 9 levels of samatha can one do perfect meditation. With full samatha realization, one achieves an extremely refined body and mind. In this way, one can have one pointed concentration for as long as you want – 1 month, or 1 year. It can last even for eons if one wishes. One can concentrate without any obstacles.
One day, the disciple came to offer Pabonka his one pointed realization of samatha. Pabonka said to him, “I’m not surprised by your realization. But, my eating this one bowl of tsampa has no comparison to your realization of samatha. It has much greater benefit than your calm abiding meditation.” What he was saying is that there is much more benefit from having Bodhicitta realization than samatha realization. Pabonka himself had both realizations.
With Bodhicitta, every single action like eating or drinking is done purely for the benefit, for the happiness of all sentient beings. So that’s why Pabonka’s eating of the one bowl of tsampa was far greater than his disciples realization of samatha. Like that, the realization of Bodhicitta, the ultimate good heart, collects infinite merit for numberless sentient beings in a short time. So quick to achieve enlightenment like that.
The 5 points that I’m trying to cover:
1. Power of the White Seat
2. Making charity, offerings to holy object and Triple Gem to actualize
3. Power of the Attitude
Power of the Attitude is a very important point. The Power of Attitude is how to live the life. In the morning, the most important education, the most important practice is the heart practice. Even though there are so many different meditations to do, so many sidhanas, and so much work to do, this is the most important, the richest, the most meaningful, the most beneficial for yourself and for all sentient beings. It teaches the greatest success toward achieving enlightenment, the ultimate good heart of cherishing other sentient beings. That’s the most important meditation. The most important Dharma practice!
In our life, especially when we’re so busy with so many obligations, so many things to do, when there’s no time to study or do long sitting meditations or prayers or sadhanas or retreats, how do we make best use of the life? By taking refuge in your own mind of Bodhicitta, your own good heart. That’s the only refuge to have in your life when you are so busy with no time to practice. That’s the only object of refuge that one must take refuge in – your own mind and good heart. It’s so important to take refuge in this, to rely on your own good heart.
It beautifies your life like gold, like diamonds. If one is able to take refuge in one’s own good heart, even if one is not able to practice, it gives meaning, it gives light to your whole life, your 24 hour life. By taking refuge in your own good mind, good heart, it gives meaning to whatever you do. If you practice with the good heart, with the thought of benefiting others, it gives meaning to all the effort you put into staying healthy, all the money spent to stay healthy, and learning so many exercises to be healthy.
Being healthy takes on a good meaning because your life is to benefit others. Your good heart makes you benefit others, to cause happiness for others. Otherwise, the efforts are meaningless! No matter how long one lives and is healthy, living without AIDS or cancer, the life is totally empty, useless. But by having a good heart, it gives meaning to having all this enjoyment and comfort like food and clothing and shelter, all the things that bring comfort. Nothing is wasted. Otherwise, life is empty and all these things don’t have much meaning. All this comfort and enjoyment, all these expenses have no meaning. Wasted! No benefit to others.
Therefore, long life has meaning with a good heart. Everything has meaning. If you miss out on refuge in your own good heart, if this is not there, then no matter how long one does retreat, 3 – 4 years or whole lifetime, it has very little meaning. Whatever practice one does, even highest tantra practice, even if done correctly, has very little meaning without a good heart. It has very little benefit, very limited.
Your good heart is your best friend, the most reliable good friend that never cheats you, never cheats other sentient beings. Your good heart, Bodhicitta, is the best cause for long life because by serving others, by helping others who need help, like giving medicine to the sick, food to the hungry, giving help to all who have suffering and problems. All those services, that good karma, effects your life. It causes you to have long life.
Your good heart is the best way to be healthy, too. With a good heart, you don’t harm others. Sickness comes from the ego substance of the mind and attachment to emotional thoughts. With a good heart, there are not those disturbing attitudes. One doesn’t harm others, doesn’t create the cause of sickness or create negative karma. The good heart does not give rise to negative thoughts, negative intentions. The results of this is only benefit, happiness. So, the practice of the good heart is the best way to be healthy. A healthy mind produces a healthy body.
And, if one wishes to be wealthy, to have material wealth, again the good heart is the best method. With a good heart, one will make charity to others, always helping others. That is the best cause of wealth and avoiding poverty. One’s own good heart is the best method.
Problems such as AIDS, cancer, whatever difficulties one has, all these undesired experiences can also become beneficial for all sentient beings. All the problems, whatever difficult experiences one has, become the path to enlightenment.
So, this is the best practice. First thing in the morning, make a determination that to achieve enlightenment, until I die, especially this month, this week, this day, I will not allow myself to be controlled by the ego. I will never separate from Bodhicitta even for one second. That’s the power of attitude.
The fourth point is the Power of Prayer. Every time one collects merit like at the end of the meditation session, at end of the practices, sadhana, or mantra recitation then dedicate accumulated merits to always strive for Bodhicitta. Always pray to actualize Bodhicitta.
Then, the last two left. Whenever one encounters undesirable experiences like someone yelling at you, someone criticizing you, someone upsetting you, whatever undesirable things happen to you, immediately without delay, without blaming anyone or anything outside of yourself, try to realize that it is do to one’s own ego, caused by my ego. Immediately one tries to discover this and blame it on our own ego. This is the evolution.
As Shantideva said in the (?) , “My karma preceded, therefore I receive this harm.” In the past, one treated the other person in the same way. You created the karma in this way. That previous karma causes this person to give harm back to you now. That means this person is creating new negative karma now. Then, this person who is now in a human realm, will be reborn in the hell realm. This person harming you, getting angry to you actually comes from your own actions. You treated this person this same way in the past. There is no need to blame this person. This person should be an object of your compassion because by giving the harm back to you, they fall down into the lower realms.
This quotation is an extremely useful meditation in the daily life when we encounter problems. When encountering problems, without delaying for one second, try to remember that this is caused by my own ego. Blame the ego, not the other person. This is an extremely important practice, the deepest psychology of the Buddhas’ teaching and Buddhist philosophy. His Holiness Dalai Lama often emphasizes in the basic Buddhist philosophy that there is no creator who creates your life. Your own mind, not somebody else, creates your life.
Now, we have to bring that philosophy into practice in our daily life, especially when we encounter problems. One basic philosophy of Buddhism is that your own mind is the creator of happiness and suffering. If you are creating the cause of suffering, you are the enemy to yourself. If you are practicing the path to liberation, then you are the liberator. If you are unable to practice this basic philosophy then it just stays as intellectual words, but that’s not living the practice. This is an extremely important point in Buddhism relating to one’s mind. This inspires us to change and develop our mind, to transform into a mind which produces happiness.
So, it’s very important to meditate on the shortcomings of the ego. Otherwise, you don’t feel how the ego is the enemy. Then, one always sees others as the enemy and you become unable to practice meditation and obstacles arises. All the problems, like criticism, someone provoking you, someone harming your reputation, whatever happens, you accept the problem to yourself and give it immediately back to the ego. Use it as a weapon. An enemy shoots bullets and you turn them back to harm the real enemy. Use the problem as a weapon. Give the problem back to the ego and completely kill the ego, completely destroy the ego.
Without ego, there’s Bodhicitta. If there is Bodhicitta, then one is able to complete the entire Mahayana path and achieve enlightenment, and able to free all the sentient beings from all suffering, to bring them to full enlightenment. And , there are infinite benefits you can achieve for yourself and for all sentient beings. With ego, there is an obstacle to these benefits.
So, this becomes an extremely powerful practice. When one is depressed, one can use this to deal with the depression. Rather than taking the depression on yourself, you give it back to the ego, use it as a weapon to destroy the ego. When you do that, there is a peace and happiness in your mind, in your life.
When there’s very strong, uncontrolled desire and attachment, one powerful meditation is to take all other sentient beings’ desire onto yourself. Say, “Let all others be free from desire. Let all others have all the happiness of liberation.” Do the same thing with anger and the other delusions. In this way, your attachment and other delusions are used to achieve enlightenment.
With the ego, the life is empty. With the ego, there is no place for Bodhicitta. All the activities of walking, sitting, and sleeping, do not become the cause of enlightenment. Due to the ego, the mind is occupied or possessed, clinging to samsara and the 24 hour activity become totally non-virtuous action, the cause for rebirth in the lower realms of suffering. The ego attachment to this life holds no place for the thought renunciation. With attachment and clinging to this life , all the activities of every 24 hours do not become even the cause for happiness for this or future lives.
The ego makes our life empty. From the birth until now, there are no realizations of lam rim or tantric path. As long as I keep this ego in my heart, there will be no realization and an empty life. From beginningless rebirths until now, besides gaining no realizations, no attainment, I experience only suffering. Up to now, I’m stuck in the suffering of samsara. That’s the result of following the ego. Endless suffering of samsara to experience.
The ego is much more harmful than all the atomic bombs in the world. No atomic bomb causes sentient beings to be reborn in the lower realms. But, if I die with the ego, it makes non-virtuous thoughts arise and one is reborn in the lower realms, hell. In this way, my ego is much more harmful than all the atomic bombs on the earth, all the poisons on the earth, all the disease on the earth. My ego is much more harmful than all the cancer and AIDS because even if I die with illness but with no ego, I will not be reborn in the lower realms. If there is ego, it interferes with being reborn in a pure land in the next life. Ego is much worse than the 424 diseases. Ego is much more harmful than any of those external things. Analyzing like this how the ego is harmful, we can see the ego as the enemy and aspire to overcome the ego. Meditate on Bodhicitta in the very day life.
So, I think that’s it. I hope there is some benefit in this talk.