Excerpts from a teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche to our FPMT sister-center, Maitreya Instituut, in 2008. The full letter can be viewed at Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.
I’m going to mention briefly how the Dharma center is so important. We can see more and more how much of an emergency it is to have such a center, because this is where we can learn the whole path to liberation, the unmistaken path to happiness, the unmistaken cause of happiness. Not only that, the unmistaken cause for the path to liberation; and not only that, the unmistaken cause for the path to great liberation, full enlightenment, how to be free from suffering; to understand the cause of suffering and how to get rid of that. This is never explained or taught in schools, colleges and universities.
These things are missing in the education facilities in the world. The most important teaching is missing, the most practical thing—the education of a good heart, compassion.
Why is there so much killing and war even among religious people? It is because of the lack of this practice, this education. So practicing the good heart develops from this education, this practice.
If we guard our mind then we don’t need guns. We don’t harm others and in this way we don’t receive harm back from others—shooting, atomic bombs, whatever. We don’t receive all this harm. This education is not brought up in schools and colleges, even though it is the most important thing for world peace.
So what can bring peace and happiness to the world generally, to all different religions? It is compassion, loving kindness. This is the only answer for world peace. For young and for old, to bring peace and unity among religions, there is one thing—compassion, the good heart.
The essence of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, the essence of Buddhism is not to harm any sentient being. What differentiates Buddhism from other religions is compassion, not only towards human beings—not only to poor human beings, not only to homeless human beings, not only to the poor or the rich—but compassion to all. Not only compassion to your friend, stranger, enemy, but compassion to everyone. Compassion to every animal—every insect, pig, fish —to everyone, to all the sentient beings whose minds are obscured and suffering. So, compassion for everyone.
The teaching of the Mahayana path includes the bodhisattva’s deeds—living with bodhicitta, and all the bodhisattva’s path, then how to achieve enlightenment to give extensive benefit to sentient beings; then the tantric teachings, how to quickly liberate numberless sentient beings from the cause of suffering and bring them happiness, especially full enlightenment. So, how to do that quickly as taught by the Buddha.
The essence of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism—at the center that teaches Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism—the very essence is compassion. So the existence of the center becomes a solution, because it offers this education and lots of practice in the good heart. This is the real solution for the cultivation of world peace—peace and happiness for all sentient beings—not only in different countries and this world.
Normally when somebody comes to the center for one or two days for a course, that person hears about karma—that if we harm others there is a consequence, a result; from the nature of the action we receive harm back. Like us, other sentient beings also want happiness and do not want suffering. Similarly, if we benefit others, then the karmic result is that all our holy wishes get fulfilled. So we can see that other sentient beings are so precious, so kind, and we receive all our happiness from them.
If someone comes to the center for one or two days’ teaching —even for one day’s teaching—with this as the main emphasis, that person stops killing other beings, or stops fishing; that person stops harming others. If this one person stops killing and harming others, then an uncountable number of sentient beings—insects, fish, worms —don’t receive harm from this person. All these numberless beings receive peace and happiness from this person. So, this comes from the center.
There are so many people coming to this Dharma center where everyone practices that, therefore over the last 10 years, from one person who comes to the center so many sentient beings have peace and happiness. If this one person practices compassion and stops giving harm to others; if he makes a vow and tries to do that, so many numberless sentient beings don’t receive harm from this one person. This is the benefit to all sentient beings. All sentient beings receive benefit from this one person, and this is due to the center. As I mentioned before, so many people have come to the center through the years since it started, so then numberless sentient beings get benefit, peace and happiness from them.
Numberless sentient beings receive benefit from each person who meets the Dharma… All the benefits for each sentient being come from the geshe, the director, the secretary, the interpreters and the whole community. So, numberless sentient beings receive happiness from this person [who comes to the center.]
My main emphasis is that the center plays a most important role in world peace, so this is our offering of service. We are offering service to the center and trying to develop the center, to have teachings and office facilities so that more sentient beings can have contact with Dharma.
This is the most important, urgent emergency. It is a billion times more urgent than an emergency in a hospital. So you can see now how your service to this center brings incredible benefit to sentient beings.
There is certainly no question that the center liberates sentient beings from the lower realms and brings them to liberation, to freedom from all the oceans of samsaric suffering. It also brings peerless happiness and enlightenment. So these are the general benefits, the skies of benefits of working for sentient beings and working for the center.