Excerpts from a letter written by Lama Zopa Rinpoche to an FPMT center in celebration of its tenth anniversary. You can read the full teaching at the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.
Even non-believers of reincarnation and karma, as a result of actions, need to practice Dharma because they want happiness and do not want suffering. To have happiness in life you have to change your mind, casting away negative thoughts and attachment to this life—clinging to the “I,” clinging to the body, clinging to possessions, friends, surrounding people and family—the delusion which harms oneself, which harms others, which makes you suffer, which makes others suffer. Cast that away and establish a healthy, positive and happy mind, virtuous thoughts….
So here, this is just a drop. If you want happiness and do not want suffering you have to practice Dharma—even non-believers. Therefore you need someone to teach and so you can see the need for Dharma centers. There are other centers, but we need as many as possible, to offer the education and practice that are necessary for happiness. That is the function of the center; not only teaching Dharma but also healing and so many things, giving food, having the temple open in the day and at night. The organizers here are unbelievably kind; their minds are so sympathetic to the people in need.
The FPMT organization has a kind of education, besides Buddhist teachings of sutra and tantra, Universal Wisdom Education (UWE), which teaches the very basic things; the first is to learn and practice for life’s happiness. In reality, happiness not only in this life but happiness from life to life for hundreds of lifetimes and thousands of lifetimes, just from one act of kindness to anyone—friend, enemy, stranger, even animals, any sentient being.
These are: rejoicing (at others’ happiness); patience; forgiveness; apologizing sincerely from the heart; contentment and courage in a positive sense. In reality, this is all Dharma.
This is the very first thing, then after that you can practice the sixteen human dharmas and so forth, securing your future happiness. Then you can study the extensive philosophy.
Now, regarding the world situation, there are three questions.
Firstly, one of the benefactors in Delhi told me recently that a big question in the world is that more and more people don’t trust their government any more.
Without Dharma, without compassion, there is self-cherishing thought, no compassion for other sentient beings’ suffering and happiness. Working in government with self-cherishing thoughts and I-grasping ignorance, the mind is selfish so the motivation is selfish. Ultimately you are working for yourself and your own happiness, but with a selfish mind there is not even success in the happiness of this life.
As the great saint Shantideva said in the Bodhicaryavatara: If one doesn’t exchange oneself for others, full enlightenment cannot be achieved; even in samsara there is no happiness.
To stop the problems, people need Dharma education. Buddhism is differentiated from other religions by compassion to all living beings—hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, asuras and suras—every single being. As well, in Buddhist practice you develop wisdom, knowing what is right or wrong—what is the right or wrong decision and what is the right or wrong lifestyle.
What is wrong and what is right? That is a huge question. In the world, what people believe is right, is wrong and what they believe is wrong, is right. So we need right wisdom. The more Dharma we learn, the more and more wisdom we develop. That becomes complete when we achieve full enlightenment. It is not endless, we can complete it. That brings more and more peace and happiness in the world.
That is why we need a Dharma center, which offers the opportunity to learn Dharma. You can see, establishing more and more Dharma centers is the most important help for sentient beings, for this world, for this country. It is of the utmost need.
Then the second question: global warming and lots of disasters, which are called “natural.” International global warming experts understand and some people explain it scientifically, such as former US vice president Al Gore in his movie. Yes, they happen, but whether good or bad things happen they come from the mind, as the delusions come from the unsubdued mind. Many disasters of the elements of fire, water, earth and air are happening, which are called natural. That is Western way of talking by those who don’t believe in karma and delusions as the main cause. They don’t understand inner and outer causes.
Since it is causative phenomena, it is born, it exists and it ceases. Everything, all these have to happen by causes, karma and delusion. So, all these so-called “natural” disasters happen due to no or little understanding of karma. To understand things, one has to understand Dharma, and karma—action and results. Then there is more possibility for somebody to have inner knowledge of why disasters are happening and what method to apply to stop those disasters….
So again, the more you develop wisdom and compassion, the fundamentals of Buddhism, by putting it into practice, the better the world can become, including economically.
Now, the third question: when there are more and more demonstrations against the government, the king and so forth, usually they are against dictatorships, which don’t help people because of selfish thought, seeking their own happiness. It is intelligent, wise and clever to cherish others, to serve others. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama always says, if you want to be selfish, be intelligently selfish. For that you must know Dharma, you must know karma and how to practice.
So even for this, the best answer is to learn Dharma, to meditate, especially how to develop wisdom and compassion towards other sentient beings. Therefore, we need a place where there is a teacher, the Dharma and facilities to practice.
The center is able to offer these facilities to everyone, as much as it can do.
The most important purpose is Dharma, it is more important than food, clothing or having a job; understanding, practicing Dharma, understanding karma (Tib: ledre) and developing wisdom and compassion for numberless sentient beings….
We each have full responsibility to free all sentient beings from suffering and bring them to full enlightenment. Therefore, we need to achieve full enlightenment and so we need to practice Dharma. Now we can see how important the Dharma center is. We should know how fortunate and lucky we are having different Dharma centers with teachers.