Adopt What Is Beneficial



Desecrated statue, Ngari, Tibet

Says Lama Zopa Rinpoche:

Just as you listen and analyze when doing research, if you are listening here for the first time you should analyze what you’re hearing. Then, if you find it beneficial, you can apply it to your own mind in order to bring peace and happiness to yourself and to others as well. In other words, it is not a requirement that you believe what I have to say.

In different religions such as Christianity, Hinduism or Islam there are beneficial things for the mind that Buddhists can learn and apply. In the same way, if there is something beneficial in Buddhism, then, for your own and others’ benefit, you can take and utilize that also.

Buddhist philosophy presents your own mind as the doer or creator.[1] Depending on how you use your mind, you may be either a guide or an enemy to yourself. When you use your mind in a mistaken manner, you perform mistaken actions that result in problems for this and future lives. In this sense you become your own enemy. Not only do you create the problem together with its cause, but you also experience the suffering result. On the other hand, if you use your mind to think in a positive and correct manner, you see how to bring about happiness for yourself and others. Then you are the guide and liberator of yourself because you free yourself from problems. Instead of creating their cause, you create their opposite, the cause for happiness in not just this life but in future lives as well. You can even bring about the end of the whole entire suffering together with its causes. You can become a guide leading to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment.

For example, there are occasions when somebody gets angry at or scolds you and you think, “Should I get angry with him or not?” If you follow the mind that thinks, “That person is bad for saying that to me,” you get angry. That mind labels the other as a “bad person”[2] and then, in the next minute, anger arises. However, if you think instead, “Oh, this doesn’t matter” or “It’s OK,” then, even without the help of lamrim meditation with all its outlines, you don’t become angry. Therefore, you have a choice in that moment.


Depending on what you do with your mind you’ll get angry or you won’t. Like controlling a TV remote, the outcome is in your hands. It’s up to what you do with your mind. The key to blocking or opening the way to happiness depends on your mind—the way you think.

That you are the creator can be seen from real experience. Applying a negative label to something—“this is harmful,” “that is bad”—is like pumping up a car tire. As you tell yourself, “This is bad, bad, bad,” you get more and more pumped up. Then, of course, you generate anger, along with the thought to hurt or harm. Even without meditating formally, you should always watch your mind and be aware of what it is doing. By practicing this kind of mindfulness at times like that, you give yourself more freedom: you can decide whether to practice patience or to get angry. Even if you still have ignorance this is still the case. By examining your everyday life you can see that whether you have happiness or problems totally depends upon what you do with your mind in each moment. Each moment’s happiness and each moment’s problem is totally to do with each moment’s way of thinking. This is the reason that Buddhism puts such emphasis on mindfulness.[3] Without it we cannot protect our mind that is habituated to the self-cherishing thoughts of ignorance, anger and attachment from morning to night, from birth to death, from beginningless rebirths.


You are like a parent and your mind the little baby for whom you must take personal responsibility. These days, of course, busy people just hire others to watch their baby! In my baby days, if nobody had been watching me—even for five minutes—I would have fallen down steps, put a knife into my mouth or done something else to hurt or even kill myself. Clearly, there is real and immediate danger if you don’t watch your baby. Similarly, if you don’t constantly watch, guard and protect your baby mind, you’re in danger of doing yourself terrible harm.

If you follow the self-cherishing thought that thinks “this is me,” identifying the self-cherishing thought as me, considering it as your very identity, as “what I am,” then anger, pride, jealousy and all the other negative emotions arise. If, however, you let go self-cherishing and think the opposite, if you cherish others instead, then such negative emotional thoughts do not arise.[4]


Mao Zedong, for example, destroyed an unbelievable number of monasteries. Many monks and lamas were also killed or died in prison. So much destruction occurred in Tibet.[5] If you look at this in an ordinary way and label him as “enemy,” you will of course get angry, but bodhisattvas, great meditators and lamas and His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself see it completely differently and generate unbelievably great compassion for Mao and the others—the greater the negative karma the Chinese created through such destructive acts, the greater the compassion they have for them.


Iconoclastic axe-stroke damage of temple mural. Cultural Revolution Tibet

During a debate, one ex-abbot from Ganden Jangtse with bodhicitta realizations cried so much when he talked about Mao Zedong. He couldn’t bear that Mao, even from a single one of those acts, had created so much heavy negative karma that it was hard to imagine. He felt the way a mother would if her beloved child were to get sick or drown. Just like that. Such great beings feel others in their heart; even though others might be incredibly destructive, those with wisdom and compassion cherish them rather than get angry at and despise them.

With the mind of patience, you can view things similarly. With patience, the enemy appears most kind—the most precious being in your life. You think, “Though you always follow delusion and self-cherishing, you are actually helping me. Together, we are destroying the self-cherishing thought of anger. Together, we are destroying my only enemy—the delusion from which all suffering comes.”[6] From the bottom of your heart, deep within your heart, you view the enemy as most precious and kind. Your positive mind and good heart sees them in this way and you feel they are very close, whereas, with the self-cherishing thought, they appear very distant. If you reflect in this way there is no question of anger arising because what you see is no longer an object of harm to be destroyed.[7]

To return to the earlier point: according to Buddhism, you are your own liberator and your own enemy. This is presented in the context of there being no external creator.[8] If, however, you believe in God, then God cannot be just like space; God must have compassion. I am sure that God wants everybody to be happy and not to suffer. Then, if that is the case, offering service with compassion and loving kindness in order to free an animal or a human being from suffering is the best offering and the best way of worshipping God. This is because such acts accord with God’s nature. This is what makes God happy.


[1] For further discussion involving comparisons between religions on creation theory, see the Dalai Lama, From Here to Enlightenment, 41–42.

[2] Conceptual imputation or label (rtog btags).

[3] Mindfulness (dran pa, smṛti). Geshe Rabten describes how the faculty of mindfulness is none other than “the force of recollection.” He illustrates, “As soon as the mind forgets its object we must immediately realize this and tie it to the object with the rope of recollection. For example, if we are on our way to work but get distracted by watching television in a shop-window, after a certain time we will remember the job we have to do. And noticing that we have become distracted we will once again set out for work. Eventually, by continuous effort and using the power of recollection, bringing the mind back to the object again and again, slowly the length of time during which the mind remains concentrated on the object will increase.” Treasury of Dharma (London: Tharpa Publications, 1988), 108–9. It is this sense of being able to recognize and maintain continuous recollection of the object—in this case the state or quality of our mental contents—to which Lama Zopa Rinpoche is referring. For further discussion see B. Alan Wallace, “A Mindful Balance,” Tricycle, Spring 2008, 60–63; 110–11.

[4] For this reason, the following prayer (from The Dhammapada) is recited at the beginning of Buddhist teaching occasions: 

Do not commit any unwholesome actions,
Engage in perfect, wholesome actions,
Subdue your mind thoroughly
This is the teaching of the Buddha.

FPMT Retreat Prayer Book, 191–92.

[5] Of the widespread iconoclasm driven by Mao, Pema Konchok writes: “One decade later, in 1966, without the slightest time-lag–so well was the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] orchestrated in Tibet–the destruction of the “Four Olds” went into full and immediate swing. Once again Mao-s most celebrated slogan: “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun,” was well applied to incite people to attack their own Buddhas, and to blow up the huge monastery walls. Combined with the practical, revolutionary, incantatory “Mao Zedong Thought,” qualified by Lin Biao in December 1966, as a “Spiritual Atom Bomb of Infinite Power” the body, speech, and mind activities of the Chairman were designed to eradicate all manifestations of superstition and religiosity among the people. According to the imagery projected by the Tibetan community in exile, “6,000 monasteries” and their contents were destroyed.” Pema Konchok, “Buddhism as a Focus of Iconoclash in Asia” in Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (editors), Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion, and Art (Cambridge: the MIT Press, 2002), 51. Pema Konchok somewhat laconically notes: “In destroying the “idols of the past–each according to his own interpretation–the aim was to replace them immediately with newly valid, living human heroes and leaders. But these, paradoxically, and almost as quickly, became or were rather deliberately projected, as beloved, larger-than-life superhuman “icons” themselves. Until not long ago, in the early to mid-1990s, giant figures and heads of Lenin and Mao stood in every town center from Moscow to Beijing, from Chengdu to Ulan Ude, while their faces beamed radiantly from large colored posters in the naïve wholesome style of “social realism.” Ibid., 41.

[6] With singular and primary mention here of “the delusion from which all suffering comes,” it is worth noting, as does translator Philip Quarcoo, that “In the system of Dharmakīrti and Candrakīrti, which the present text is largely based on [referring to Tsongkhapa’s Middle Length Lam-Rim], delusion (gti mug) and ignorance (ma rig pa) are synonymous. It is only in the system of Asaṅga and Vasubandhu that the two terms are defined differently, with ignorance covering a wider range of meaning than delusion.” Tsongkhapa, Middle Length Lam-Rim, 241, footnote 252. Lama Zopa Rinpoche follows Tsongkhapa’s precise definition: “Ignorance is the opposite of knowledge, but knowledge should not be taken as just any knowledge; rather, it is wisdom knowing suchness—selflessness. Its opposite is not suitable to be just the non-existence of it or just other than it; hence, its opposite is its contradictory equivalent.” Hopkins, Final Exposition, 38. Quarcoo translates Hopkins’s “contradictory equivalent” as “its antagonist” (ibid., 242).  For further technical reference regarding contradictories, see Klein, Path to the Middle: Oral Mādhyamika Philosophy in Tibet. The Spoken Scholarship of Kensur Yeshey Tupden, Commenting on Tsong-kha-pa’s Illumination of (Candrakīrti’s) Thought. Collected, translated, edited, annotated and introduced by Anne Carolyn Klein. Translation of Tsong-kha-pa’s text by Jeffrey Hopkins and Anne Klein. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994,  237, note 21. For further detail on how ignorance is distinguished according to the two systems (Dharmakīrti/Candrakīrti and Vasubandhu/Asaṅga), see Geshe Lhundub Sopa, Steps on the Path to Enlightenment, Volume 2 (Boston: Wisdom, 2005), 275–77.

[7] In his famous chapter on patience, Śāntideva gives many such powerful arguments for transforming the mind of anger into a mind of deep compassion for others. See Guide, ch. 6, vv. 61–62, for example.

[8] For another brief account of Buddhism’s logical refutation of an external creator god, see Gyatso, Harmony, 33–34 and Rinchen, How Karma Works, 23–29, passim.


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