When I became Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s attendant back in 1997 I was very surprised to discover his keen interest in feng shui. It is not Buddhist but comes from the Taoist philosophy. And it is not taught by Tibetan Lamas - indeed, they mostly regard it with skepticism or even disdain. There are only one or two Tibetan texts on the subject and they are very hard to find. It is certainly not studied at the great monastic universities.
Lama Zopa is an incomparable Buddhist master and the most sincere practitioner I have ever met. He is extraordinary in every way. He always sits in meditation all night. I saw him lie down only twice in the six months I was with him and then only for a very short time. He was quite sick and exhausted after long sessions answering student’s questions.
As a fledgling Buddhist I did not expect Rinpoche to be so deeply engaged in feng shui to get to the point of inviting masters to come and give advice for the Maitreya Project (the building of a huge statue of the next Buddha in North India). I said to him, “You will have to let me be skeptical about all this Chinese superstition.” In reply, Rinpoche simply said, “It is just cause and effect.”
This is of course a very profound answer because it means that feng shui is caught up with the Buddhist concept of “karma.” This says that for every action there is a corresponding result that is similar to the cause. You are the creator of your reality in that sense. The more good actions you perform, motivated by good intentions, the more likelihood of good things happening in your life - the more bad actions, the more negative results.
But sometimes good things happen to us and at other times bad things, despite the quality of our altruistic practice. Even great practitioners seem to experience the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” in a random way. So what makes different results appear at different times?
In Buddhism we talk about karma and “conditions.” When there are certain conditions then the karma will ripen and there will be some kind of result. Briefly, the weightiest karma is likely to ripen first, then (all other karmas being of equal strength) the karma at the time of death, then the most habitual, and lastly the oldest. Fortunately, negative karma can be neutralized, principally through regret for the negative action and also certain purification practices. There is very little Buddhist explanation of how the conditions arise and function other than that of the collective karma of a group of individuals who share the same “causes.”
However, according to the Taoist view of the universe it seems that karma (or ‘heaven luck’ as they call it) also ripens in dependence on the energy of the environment and especially that of the place you call home. This is where feng shui is very useful because it shows us how to manipulate the environmental conditions so that the good karma tends to ripen and the bad karma is suppressed. Feng shui techniques, derived from the theory of “yin” and “yang” energy, explain how to balance and harmonize the subtle energy called “chi” in your land and home so that life goes more smoothly with less problems.
We can use feng shui to balance the environment in the same way as we use yoga, acupuncture, tai chi and the martial arts to balance our inner chi. Good feng shui can be as simple as placing the head of the bed in a specific direction or putting a fountain in a good location. The correct placement of the five elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood) is very important to create a harmonious environment.
It is not necessary to hold any beliefs, Buddhist, Taoist, Scientific or otherwise for feng shui techniques to work. Just implement them and forget about it. You only need to check it once a year so it is not a superstition in that sense. Worrying about whether it is working or not will not help you. You should have the attitude of the successful American financier, property developer and personality Donald Trump, who says, “I do it but I don’t believe in it.”
Lama Zopa has continued to recommend that his students use these techniques in their lives. I have been giving advice with his encouragement for more than 15 years and have seen some excellent results. However (because conditions are constantly changing) hoped-for outcomes are not always
guaranteed - just more probable. In general, life becomes less of a roller coaster when feng shui is applied well. Then you can devote more of your time to life’s most important aspects.
If Buddhism helps with the causes of good fortune and feng shui helps with the conditions for it to ripen, it is then up to you to recognize and seize the opportunities that arise. Here, your knowledge, skill and insight are crucial, not to mention your health and energy. This is more dependent on what we might call our “western” education and common sense. Together, these three form the “trinity of luck.”
The heart of Buddhist advice is, “As much as you can help others. If you can’t help them, at least don’t harm.” In the afterword of my book Feng Shui - Seeing is Believing it says, “As you enjoy the fruits of your own positive actions through the application of feng shui techniques, please remember to pass on your good fortune to others. In this way you will create further seeds of success and ensure your own and others’ long-term benefit. Then wherever you go in the universe you will find happiness.”