Dear Lama Zopa - Selections

Radical Solutions for Transforming Problems into Happiness

Addictions

I Want to Stop Smoking

Dear Lama Zopa,

I need to stop smoking. How can I find the strength? I have tried so many times. I have cut down, but I find it so hard, I just don’t know what to do. My partner smokes and sometimes it’s such a nice social time together when we go out for a cigarette, but I know it’s bad for us physically and mentally. It’s an old habit and so much of my life goes along with my cigarette breaks. Do you have any advice on how I can quit once and for all?

Best wishes,

Denise, London 

Dear Denise,

I am happy that you have cut down your smoking, as it is very harmful to your body and life. It can shorten your life and cause cancer. It is said both in Buddhist teachings and in ordinary life that smoking is harmful and extremely distasteful.

  • The teachings say that the material used in cigarettes is impure, and that evil beings caused the substances to grow in order to interfere with people’s practice of virtue, degenerate their minds, and engage them in nonvirtue, so that their minds are not free from delusion.

I once saw the body of a woman who died of lung cancer from smoking, and her lungs were black and blue. A Tibetan doctor from Dharamsala showed me one of her lungs. You could die like this if you don’t stop!

  • Smoking also makes people who don’t smoke unhappy.

Smoking pollutes your whole body, making it impure. It harms your subtle body, too. It makes it difficult for virtuous thoughts to arise, and it makes it very hard not to have attachment. Smoking just brings temporary pleasure, and that’s all. When you die, you don’t take one single benefit from smoking with you. It doesn’t protect you from suffering, and it can’t help you achieve a good rebirth in your next life.

  • Think: “I am trying to become a champion, to defeat my delusions, especially my attachment. To do that I have to be strong.”

Some people spend their whole lives training for the Olympics. When they don’t succeed, they experience unbelievable suffering because their attachment was so intense. You are trying to become a champion, to defeat your delusions, especially your attachment. If you can succeed against the enemy of delusions by avoiding smoking cigarettes, that would be fantastic. Not following delusion also causes you to achieve liberation and helps you to reach enlightenment. Each time you avoid smoking you create the cause of realizations on the path to enlightenment. By defeating delusion, especially attachment, you will be able to liberate numberless sentient beings from eons of suffering in samsara and bring them to enlightenment.

  • What better Olympic sport is there than this one? What better champion is there?

This way you become the most famous person among all sentient beings, not just in one country or in one world, but among all sentient beings— you become a buddha. Every day you have to have courage. Be brave.

  • Also, you don’t have to do everything that your boyfriend does. Your mind is not his. You are responsible for your own happiness.

With much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Remember

  • Smoking makes it hard for me to have virtuous thoughts.
  • Every time I avoid smoking I create the cause for realizations on the path to enlightenment.
  • I am responsible for my own happiness.

 

Anger

My Anger Harms People

Dear Lama Zopa,

I am one of the art editors in a small advertising agency, and I supervise a number of people in my division. When people do not meet the deadlines, or turn in sloppy work, or waste time at the office, etc., I really lose my temper. As a result, I have hurt quite a few people with my angry outbursts and have lost some valuable employees who have walked out on the job. They just couldn’t deal with me anymore. Is it possible to correct inappropriate behavior on the part of my staff without becoming angry? Or is this an occasion when my anger is beneficial and I should just accept that some people won’t like it and may leave? In what ways might my anger be harming myself and others? I would welcome so much any advice you could give me on this matter.

Best wishes,

Christian, Oslo
 

My very dear Christian,

This is really an opportunity to practice the path of patience. The purpose of practicing patience is to have immediate peace and happiness within you.

  • Think: “That moment when I don’t get angry means I don’t harm myself, I don’t cause myself unhappiness.”

When the mind becomes negative, it is like a bomb inside you. If you are killed in a war by an external bomb, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be born in the lower realms—you may be born in the upper realms. The bomb of anger, however, is billions of times worse for you than any external bomb. When it arises, you create negative karma and throw yourself into the three lower realms, where you have to experience terrible suffering for an incredibly long time—for eons! In A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Shantideva says that the negative karma created by one second of anger causes us to experience the three lower realms for eons—we can’t be reborn in the realm of a happy transmigratory being. This is without even mentioning the negative karma collected from our angry actions in infinite past lives. He also says that the merit collected for one thousand years by making charity and offerings to those gone to bliss and so forth is destroyed by one second of anger. So, there are several disadvantages to anger.

1. The first disadvantage is how much anger causes you to suffer in the three lower realms.

2. The second is how anger destroys eons of merit.

3. The third disadvantage is that anger delays realizations, depending on whom you get angry with and whom you create the negative karma with.

4. The fourth is that anger also causes you to have an ugly body in your future lives.

Practicing patience brings you a beautiful body in future lives. In this way, getting angry is unbelievably harmful to yourself. Being angry just one time is so harmful, so you can imagine if it happens all day long or for weeks, months, or years. It is terrifying to think about. Just being angry one time brings so much suffering.

  • Think: “If I am angry I can’t really work with others.”

They get upset and leave, because they are so unhappy with you, and seeing this also makes you unhappy. Also, if you get angry, it makes others angry, and then this makes you angry again! You make yourself the target for others to get angry at you and harm you with harsh speech and dislike. If anger gets worse, it can even cause physical harm. If you are patient, you don’t get angry at sentient beings. In that way, sentient beings only receive peace and happiness from you.

  • Each time you stop being angry by practicing patience, this becomes your most practical contribution to world peace. It brings so much peace and happiness to your own world, mind, and heart.
  • For others, it brings peace and happiness, not only for beings in this world, but for all living beings.
  • If you are able to practice patience in this life, it will be much easier in future lives.

At your work, you can change the staff if you don’t like them, but that will happen over and over, and it is difficult to bring your mind to peace. Whereas with patience, your mind is happy all the time. Your evaluations at work may be correct, but the problem is the way they are expressed—with harsh words and anger. These are extra and unnecessary; they create the problems. Of course, someone doing wrong needs to have it explained to them, but this should be delivered with compassion for them and with no negative feelings.

  • You should use only kind words, even though you are saying what they did is wrong. And along with compassion you need wisdom.

You have a great opportunity to gain experience in patience. Each time you wake up, you must plan this—especially today! If you don’t make a firm plan in the morning, you won’t remember the teachings when anger comes up. The more you cherish others in daily life, the less anger you will have. Think that each person you meet is the source of so much past happiness and will be the source of so much future happiness, including the realizations of the path to enlightenment. So, respect others and practice kindness toward them, especially toward those who get angry with you. So, to conclude:

1. Practice patience,

2. Cherish others by remembering their kindness,

3. Respect others, and

4. Practice kindness to others. Then, everyone will love and support you and be your friend. They will be surprised and change their minds about you. They will be inspired when they see that your mind can change and develop. Thank you very much.

With much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

Remember

  • The bomb of anger is worse than any external bomb.
  • My anger makes others dislike me.
  • Patience makes me peaceful.
  • The more I cherish others, the less angry I’ll be.

 

Animals

How to Help My Cat?

Dear Lama Zopa,

I have a cat. I’ve been thinking lately that her life must be one of suffering, just sitting there in her ignorance every day. How can she create any good karma? It doesn’t seem possible. Can you tell me some things that I can do to help her mind?

Love,

James, Amsterdam

My dear James,

You’re right. It’s not enough that you look after animals and that they give you comfort. You must do something of practical benefit for them. This is what you can do every day:

1. Circumambulate with her around holy objects, chanting mantras. [See page 16.]

2. You can recite prayers or mantras in her ears to plant the seed of all the realizations of the path to enlightenment. Or you can play CDs of prayers and mantras so that she can hear them.

This makes a huge difference. It has incredible results, enabling her to have a good rebirth in her next life, to be born as a human being and meet the Dharma.

There is a story about when the Buddha gave teachings to five hundred swans in a field and in their next lives they were born as humans, became monks, and all became arya beings, highly realized beings who are able to achieve the cessation of suffering and the true path. The result from just hearing Dharma words was incredible.

Vasubandhu used to recite the Abhidharmakosha, and a pigeon on the roof heard this every day. One day the pigeon died and Vasubandhu used his clairvoyance to check to see where it had been reborn. It was born human to a family who lived in the valley below. He went down and visited the child and asked if he could look after him, and the family let the child go with him. The child became a monk named Lopon Loden and became an expert on the text that he had heard when he was a pigeon. He wrote four commentaries on that text.

3. You can also give her a Dharma name rather than a useless name that has no benefit for her. Then, every time you call her name, it leaves a positive imprint on her mind.

We call our dog Om Mani Padme Hum, the compassion mantra. Each time she hears her name it plants the seed for the whole path to enlightenment in her mind, leaving a positive imprint. It also creates the cause for her to understand all the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha because they are contained in the mantra Om mani padme hum: the two truths, the path of method and wisdom, and the goal: dharmakaya and rupakaya. Each time she hears her name it brings her closer to enlightenment. This is such an easy way to benefit animals.

4. It’s also extremely good to bless food before you give it to your cat. Recite the Five Powerful Mantras for Liberating Sentient Beings from the Lower Realms or the mantras of the Compassion Buddha, Medicine Buddha, and Milarepa, and then blow on the food.

If you can’t do it every time you feed her, then you can bless her entire supply of food at the same time.

  • This has power and helps anyone who eats this food to not be reborn in the lower realms; it blesses their mind and purifies negative karma.

Much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

Remember

  • Reciting prayers and mantras into my pet’s ears leaves imprints in her mind that ripen in her future life, causing her to receive spiritual teachings.
  • Blessing her food helps her purify negative karma.

 

Attachment

How Can I Stop Attachment?

Dear Lama Zopa,

I have many attachments in my life that drain my energy more than they should. I worry about the people close to me more than they need me to worry about them. I often feel that I could be more effective as a person if I could break free and focus on developing skills and abilities that really matter. But I am totally caught up in worrying about my friends and possessions. How can I make progress?

Love,

Jill, Amsterdam

Dear Jill,

Especially for us beginners, one of the most powerful ways to counteract attachment is to think of death and impermanence.

  • Think: “I can die any time. So, too, can the object of attachment, the other person, die at any time.”

Death is one thing, but other changes can come about, too. The object can change and become undesirable. Any day, any moment, this can happen. An accident could happen, our body could get damaged or become deformed. The body can change at any time. It can contract leprosy. Many things like that can happen. One very effective practice is:

  • Think: “Any day, any minute, the object of my attachment can become my enemy by doing something that my attachment doesn’t like.”

The person can say or do something that your self-cherishing doesn’t want. For example, the person may come to like another person and lose interest in you. This can happen at any time. Also:

  • Think: “If I allow attachment to arise, it leaves a negative imprint on my mind, which makes attachment arise again and again.”

That makes it more difficult to handle attachment in the future. The more imprints that are left, the more attachment will arise strongly over and over again, causing many difficulties in the future. It’s good to remember that this makes your life very uncontrolled.

With much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

Remember

  • I could die at any moment.
  • The object of my attachment can easily change into the object of my aversion.
     

Making Your Life Beneficial

Dear Lama Zopa,

I have a nice home and I love my husband very much. I think that generally I am happy. But sometimes I get depressed and worried that my life is going by and that I am not doing more to make it meaningful. I see that there is a lot of suffering in the world, but I don’t know what I can do. I think perhaps I am too attached to the comfort and beauty of my home and to my husband, especially to the sexual relationship we have.

When the environment around me has no beauty or pleasure in it, I am not happy and even become angry! I do not want to live for myself alone, but I am also afraid of being without all these things that I like. I want to make my life more beneficial for others but I think maybe these strong feelings of attachment sometimes make it difficult for me to think of others. Please tell me how I can live a better life.

Best wishes,

Maria, Colombia

Dear Maria, If you are performing the actions of your daily life with the two following attitudes, you are getting close to enlightenment:

1. Meditation on the lamrim—the stages of the path to enlightenment—the teachings on impermanence, karma, renunciation, compassion, and so on.

This can mean living your life with the wish to achieve enlightenment quickly or at least to prepare your mind by leaving positive imprints on it every day.

2. Cultivating a sincere heart, doing social service with compassion: in other words, working for others.

This means doing something for others, from your heart. Even if you can give only a little help, you still get real satisfaction, like you have done something meaningful and positive with your life. Then, every day, every moment, every second, you are getting closer to enlightenment.

If your life does not have these two things in them, then no matter how much you meditate, you are only doing it for yourself. Your life becomes dark, because everything is done with self-cherishing, desire, attachment, and clinging to this life. All of these are nonvirtues. When you die, you don’t have any positive thoughts, and you are not able to renounce life.

You are looking for pleasure for yourself, with attachment, and from this comes only pain:

1. There is the pain of separation, where you can’t stand to be away from a person to whom you are attached. Then, each day, your feelings become stronger, until the attachment becomes unbearable.

2. Then there comes the pain of jealousy of others.

3. You have so many worries and fears, and it becomes so much suffering.

You have so many projections, so many anxieties and fears. If something changes or happens to the person to whom you are attached, for example, he or she is no longer interested in you, or leaves you for someone else, then you feel incredible pain. It is as if a disaster or war has happened in your mind. You are attacked by your own hallucinations, fears, and so forth, and you harm yourself and the other person. Your life becomes a huge movie of violent negative karma. Then there is nothing to rejoice in and no virtue to dedicate. Your mind is very sad and dissatisfied.

  • With attachment your life is totally wasted. You don’t achieve anything meaningful, and you die with regret, because your life had no purpose and then it was finished.
  • When you die, you don’t have any positive thoughts, and you are not able to renounce life.
  • You die with all the negative karmas that you have collected every day in your life, every minute, every hour, every day, every year, because nothing has been purified.
  • Not only that, but the negative karma has also grown, so you go to the lower realms.

You could have had a long life and happiness, the happiness of future lives, a peaceful mind in daily life, and your own ultimate happiness. You could have performed spiritual practice, meditation, purified negative karma, and collected merit. Instead you followed attachment. Most people in the world do not know about this. They have no idea, and their whole life is spent living in pure attachment, in sexual pleasure, and that’s it.

All suffering comes from living with attachment. You can see how the world is suffering in this way. You can see how people who do not have any idea about this are suffering now and creating even more suffering for the future.

If you don’t apply the meditations, then even a small amount of attachment is so much suffering. When you think of people who are never involved in positive actions—offering service for others or having compassion—you can see how their entire life is suffering. Their life is wasted; even their future is wasted. If they spend their lives pursuing only this life’s happiness, such as being a famous singer, actor, or president, their lives are totally wasted, without meaning.

  • If you are not able to renounce life 100 percent, which means to renounce desire and clinging to this life, and
  • If you are not able to do social service (working for others) or practice the path to enlightenment, then your life has no meaning. It is empty and wasted.

Not only that, it also becomes negative, and creates future sufferings, one after the other. You will have to experience them; they only come back to you.

  • How much peace and happiness you experience depends on your attitude.

If you have attachment and your main goal is to obtain freedom for yourself alone, then you are creating negativity all the time, and you are not creating positive emotions like compassion and loving kindness. If your main goal is desire, attachment, and clinging to this life, and if other sentient beings are not important to you, then you are creating more negativity and a more unhappy life. However, if your Dharma practice is to benefit others, then you will have more peace and happiness, even if you have not completely renounced this life. If others are the most important thing in your life, then you will have happiness. If others come first in your heart, you will have so much peace and happiness and fewer emotional problems.

  • Your positive attainments and actions depend on how much you guard yourself from following negative thoughts and how much you keep a positive attitude.

It all depends on how well you protect your mind from attachment and thoughts of self-cherishing. There is a big difference between enjoying your life with the thought of benefiting others and enjoying things just for your own pleasure, just for yourself. Even sex done with a wish to benefit merely the person you are with becomes a cause for future happiness.

These two attitudes—lamrim and the good heart—make an unbelievably huge difference in your life. With them, the sun is shining, without them, life is dark and obscured because of attachment and a negative attitude. It is like the difference between the sky and the earth.

Love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

Remember

  • I will think about impermanence, karma, and the path to enlightenment every day.
  • I will live my life, even enjoying what pleasure it brings, with the wish to benefit others.
  • All my suffering comes from living with attachment.
     

Birthdays

How to Celebrate?

Dear Lama Zopa,

How can we celebrate birthdays in a meaningful way? I get annoyed with the materialism of giving and receiving gifts. Sometimes it just feels like a chore to get through, but why should it feel this way? The years pass. This should mean something. Would you please give me some advice on how to celebrate birthdays?

Best wishes and thanks,

Dora, Adelaide

Dear Dora,

One way to celebrate a birthday is as if you have just been in a place where there was great danger but you have survived. It’s a miracle!

  • Think: “It’s amazing that since my last birthday, over the past year, I did not die.”
  • Think: “It is remarkable that I have survived since birth, and that is something to celebrate.”
  • Think: “I have created many causes for liberation from samsara and to achieve a good rebirth in my next life, and have done many things to benefit other sentient beings.”

These are worth celebrating. They are the real reason to celebrate a birthday. If your life has been spent on meaningless or nonvirtuous activities only to achieve your own happiness for this life alone, then there’s nothing in which to rejoice. If you are going to live in that way, there is no point in celebrating the future. But through realizing that, and resolving that from now on you will purify past negative actions and change your behavior, then you can celebrate.

  • On the day of your birthday, you can decide to develop compassion and loving kindness for all sentient beings, including your enemies, not just those you like.
  • Study the Buddha’s holy deeds, and the biographies of others—not only Buddhists—who tamed their minds, subdued their egos, and only thought of cherishing others.

Aspire to become like those beings, with their compassion and loving kindness and their renunciation, beings who, without anger, practice tolerance and contentment and have brought so much peace, happiness, and benefit to many sentient beings. If you generate that sort of wish, then you can become like those great holy beings. Then a birthday really becomes something to celebrate.

Many prayers,

Lama Zopa

Remember

  • There is nothing to celebrate if I use my life for meaningless activities.
  • From now on I will purify my negative actions.
  • I will try to become like the holy beings who have benefited others. Then I will have something to celebrate!
     

Collective Karma

Karma Is More Powerful When Created by Many

Dear Lama Zopa,

I am hoping you can help me with some questions I have about karma. In particular, I am very disturbed about all the killing taking place in the world and am trying to understand the karmic implications. When there is a lot of popular support for killing, as with capital punishment and war, who is it that receives the karma? Does only the person directly responsible for the killing receive the karma, or does everybody share in it? If everyone shares the karma, is it diluted? In other words, does group karma mean that an individual’s share is less than for actions done independently?

Thanks and best wishes,

Donna, Wisconsin

Dear Donna,

Karma is more powerful when it is created by many people. For example, if one hundred people all established the intention to kill a sheep and then killed a sheep, each one of these people would have the negative karma of killing that sheep.

This means that:

If a government makes the decision to go to war and they are supported by the population of that country, each person will receive the karma of killing, however many people die.

If one human being is killed, everyone will receive the karma of killing one human being. If a thousand people are killed, everyone will receive the karma of having killed a thousand people.

But if one person kills a sheep without the support of other people, only that person will get the negative karma of having killed one sheep. If you compare to see which karma is more powerful, the previous instance, where many people had the same intention and then killed a sheep, is more powerful.

Similarly,

Whether one hundred people build a stupa or just one person builds a stupa, the merit each person collects is the same. Thus there is much more merit if many people build the stupa.

Similarly, if you compare the karma of one sangha person—a monk or nun—reciting a sutra once in a temple or room without any other support, or reciting a sutra with all the assembly of sangha, the latter—reciting the sutra with all the sangha—is much more powerful.

This applies to reciting prayers like Guru Puja alone, either in one’s own room or in the temple, or with a group. Reciting it in a group is more powerful. The more people that support the practice, the more powerful it becomes.

When karma is more powerful, the result comes more quickly, whether the goal is a project or realization.

Love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

Remember

  • The more people who support an action, the greater the karma that results.
  • When karma is more powerful, the result comes more quickly.

 

Corruption

The Government Took My Money

Dear Lama Zopa,

I married a very wealthy man who owned a large company. I tried to use the money to help poor, sick people, and often paid hospital bills for people who couldn’t afford them. My husband died in 1978. At the time, the president of our country (I don’t live there any more) appropriated the company’s funds, saying that the government needed one billion U.S. dollars and would repay it later. This was our family’s money and was supposed to be divided among us, according to my husband’s will. It’s not likely we will ever get it back. What do you advise, Rinpoche?

Best wishes,

Patty, Australia

Dear Patty,

  • You can try rejoicing that the president and the government got the money.

Rejoicing in the good fortune of others is an easy way to create merit. One billion dollars is such a huge amount that if you rejoice, you receive an enormous amount of merit. With more merit, you will be able to make more money. You might make even more money than was lost.

  • Think: “Even the earth will be empty one day; none of this will exist any more. We will have to leave everything, including our body, our family, relations, and possessions—everything.”

We have to separate from them one day. Even if the government hadn’t taken the money, at the time of your death it would have to be left behind. Death and this separation can happen any time. Life is not long. Only a small number of people live for one hundred years. It’s better to have a happy, positive mind toward one another. Looking at this situation in a positive way is good, because it makes you happy. If you are happy, you can make everyone else happy.

With much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa Remember

  • I can look at this situation in a positive way.
  • I can’t take it with me when I die anyway.
     

Death

You Must Tell a Person They Are Dying

Dear Lama Zopa,

My sister Kerry has been diagnosed with advanced cancer. She has exhausted the options for a cure, and the doctors have told us she is nearing death. We are concerned about her state of mind and are reluctant to tell her that she will die soon. We would like her to be able to spend her last days peacefully and to make the best use of the time left. But is it right not to tell her? Some members of the family and I myself feel we should tell her that she is going to die soon.

Love,

Nancy, Santa Fe

Dear Nancy,

It is not appropriate to withhold this important and relevant information from her. Knowing that she only has a very short time to live should help her make what time is left most useful. This is very critical for her. The main thing for her is to practice compassion. Always keep this in mind.

  • She should keep repeating: “I am going to die for the benefit of all sentient beings. The practice, the service, that I am doing and have done is for the benefit of sentient beings.”

I have sponsored prayers to be done for her. They are all for the purpose of her purification and good rebirth, and she should not worry. This is what I am saying to her.

With much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

 

Depression

Transforming Depression

Dear Lama Zopa,

Over the past three years, I have experienced periods of deep depression. First, it was due to a divorce. Since then, I have moved to a new city, made a new life and career, and still I feel like I can’t shake the depression. It’s always in the background, like a low-grade fever, and from time to time it comes up more strongly. I have tried the usual approaches—psychotherapy, antidepressants—but I still can’t seem to get to the bottom of it. There are times when the depression comes and there doesn’t seem to be a real reason. Yet still it’s there.

Please advise me, Rinpoche. I feel like I have tried everything.

Love,

Elizabeth, Montana

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you so much for your email. At the beginning it is good to accept your depression, thinking, “I created the cause for this in a past life.” That will help.

  • Use the depression as a meditation to develop renunciation of samsara, bodhichitta, and emptiness.

This way you use your depression to free yourself of it forever. This is the long-term view. Your depression can then become the best Dharma practice, and the best way of healing yourself.

Usually, taking medicine and following psychological advice don’t eliminate the karmic causes of depression, which were created in past lives, although they may ease the symptoms for a while. But in the end, when the medication is gone from the body, the problem is still there. For a long-term solution, you need purification, merit, and insight.

If you feel depressed due to a particular reason, for example, a relationship problem, meditate on that situation. If your depression seems without reason, then practice the meditation I explain here.

  • Use your depression by experiencing it with compassion. Meditate that you are taking on all sentient beings’ depression and suffering, and the causes of that suffering. It comes to you and dissolves into your heart.

In this way, your self-cherishing thought is destroyed. Even the inherently existent “I” becomes nonexistent, the “I” that appears as if it were truly existent. Perform this practice with compassion for others who are more depressed than you. Countless beings experience depression for many lifetimes, without end.

  • Think: “I am just one living being. No matter how much suffering I experience, others, who are countless, have so much more suffering.”
  • Think: “By my experiencing this depression, they are free of all suffering and enjoy happiness, up until liberation and enlightenment. I am experiencing depression for them. How wonderful that I am able to do this, because all my happiness is due to the kindness of other sentient beings. They are the most precious things in my life; I receive all my happiness from them.”

Then generate loving kindness for other beings:

  • Think: “I must enable them to experience happiness and the cause of happiness. I offer whatever they want and need, and visualize all their happiness becoming the happiness of the pure land of the Buddha, where no problems exist.”
  • Think: “They receive the purest, highest sense pleasures, enjoyments, and beauty from me— everything they need. This causes them to actualize the whole path to enlightenment. All beings become enlightened in this way.”

Perform this meditation—taking suffering and giving happiness in this way—five, ten, twenty times or more, if possible, in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Spend more time taking away others’ suffering.

  • While you are eating, walking, and at other times, think, “I am experiencing this depression on behalf of all sentient beings.” Think that it is not your depression.

Enjoy your depression by voluntarily taking on the experience for all sentient beings and giving it to your ego, thus destroying it completely.

Think of your depression as the purification of past negative karma. If we don’t experience it now, we will have to experience the hell realms for many years, so it is good to have it now.

  • Think: “I am experiencing past heavy negative karma. By experiencing this I am purifying it.”

In this way, you use your depression to achieve happiness, like transforming snake venom into medicine.

You can also use your depression to collect merit. Your depression becomes like performing the preliminary practices for purifying and collecting merit, such as making mandala offerings and hundreds of thousands of prostrations. It is like reciting the mantras of powerful deities. You use your depression to achieve not just worldly happiness but ultimate happiness.

Transform depression into the path to enlightenment and use it to develop compassion and bodhichitta for other sentient beings. This allows you to free sentient beings from their suffering more quickly and bring them to enlightenment.

Enjoy your depression by thinking of all these benefits.

With much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

Remember

  • I am experiencing this depression on behalf of all sentient beings.
  • This is not my depression.

 

Divorce

If Divorce Happens, Let It Happen

Dear Lama Zopa,

I am going through a terrible time right now. My wife wants a divorce after several years of marriage. I’ve tried hard in this relationship, but it seems like there was nothing I could do to satisfy her, and we’ve both been miserable for some time. But now that she wants to end the marriage, I feel like a terrible failure. Isn’t divorce wrong? Is there anything I can do to save the marriage?

Best wishes for your health,

Charlie, Copenhagen

Dear Charlie,

If divorce happens, let it happen. Don’t be too upset. Divorce means that you are experiencing negative karma from a past life, such as from sexual misconduct with someone else’s partner, or sex at the wrong time or place. Divorce can also be the result of the karmas of slander, creating disunity, and causing others to split up. Therefore,

  • Think: “She is now leaving me, so the bad karma I created to experience this result is finishing; it is being purified.”

If you look at the situation in a positive way, it becomes like poison leaving your system. This brings peace of mind.

  • Think: “Whatever is best in my life must be dedicated to the benefit of sentient beings. Whatever I experience—praise, criticism, even being reborn in the hell realms—may it be most beneficial for all sentient beings, for them to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.”

This is the best psychology to practice.

Your only real job is to work for sentient beings, to bring them to enlightenment. When you think like this, you can use your problem like a medicine to relieve suffering and bring about happiness. A peacock thrives on eating poisonous plants; for others they are just poison. By using your painful experience as a means to experience all other living beings’ problems, you are making it the best medicine and the best way to achieve enlightenment.

We suffer so much in relationships, with anger and jealousy, but we can use these to generate compassion. Your wife is teaching you renunciation from samsara and attachment; she is showing you freedom by helping you learn to cut your attachment. When you let go of your attachment, you will find satisfaction.

Love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

Remember

  • My only real job is to work for others.
  • My wife is showing me how to cut attachment.